EUSEBIUS PAMPHILUS OF CAESAREA
THE LIFE OF THE BLESSED EMPEROR CONSTANTINE
BOOK I BOOK II BOOK III BOOK IV
CHAPTER I: Preface.-- Of the Death
ALREADY have all mankind united
in celebrating with joyous festivities the completion of the second and
third decennial period of this great emperor's reign; already have we ourselves
received him as a triumphant conqueror in the assembly of God's ministers,
and greeted him with the due mead of praise on the twentieth anniversary
of his reign: and still more recently we have woven, as it were, garlands
of words, wherewith we encircled his sacred head in his own palace on his
But now, while I desire to give utterance
to some of the customary sentiments, I stand perplexed and doubtful which
way to turn, being wholly lost in wonder at the extraordinary spectacle
before me. For to whatever quarter I direct my view, whether to the east,
or to the west, or over the whole world, or toward heaven itself, everywhere
and always I see the blessed one yet administering the self-same empire.
On earth I behold his sons, like some new reflectors of his brightness,
diffusing everywhere the luster of their father's character, and himself
still living and powerful, and governing all the affairs of men more completely
than ever before, being multiplied in the succession of his children. They
had indeed had previously the dignity of Caesars; but now, being invested
with his very self, and graced by his accomplishments, for the excellence
of their piety they are proclaimed by the titles of Sovereign, Augustus,
Worshipful, and Emperor.
CHAPTER II: The Preface continued.
And I am indeed amazed, when I consider
that he who was but lately visible and present with us in his mortal body,
is still, even after death, when the natural thought disclaims everything
superfluous as unsuitable, most marvelously endowed with the same imperial
dwellings, and honors, and praises as heretofore. But farther, when I raise
my thoughts even to the arch of heaven, and there contemplate his thrice
blessed soul in communion with God himself, freed from every mortal and
earthly vesture, and shining in a refulgent robe of light, and when I perceive
that it is no more connected with the fleeting periods and occupations
of mortal life, but honored with an ever- blooming crown, and an immortality
of endless and blessed existence, I stand as it were without power of speech
or thought and unable to utter a single phrase, but condemning my own weakness,
and imposing silence on myself, I resign the task of speaking his praises
worthily to one who is better able, even to him who, being the immortal
God and veritable Word, alone has power to confirm his own saying.
CHAPTER III: How God honors Pious
Princes, but destroys Tyrants.
Having given assurance that those
who glorify and honor him will meet with an abundant recompense at his
hands, while those who set themselves against him as enemies and adversaries
will compass the ruin of their own souls, he has already established the
truth of these his own declarations, having shown on the one hand the fearful
end of those tyrants who denied and opposed him, and at the same time having
made it manifest that even the death of his servant, as well as his life,
is worthy of admiration and praise, and justly claims the memorial, not
merely of perishable, but of immortal monuments.
Mankind, devising some consolation
for the frail and precarious duration of human life, have thought by the
erection of monuments to glorify the memories of their ancestors with immortal
honors. Some have employed the vivid delineations and colors of painting;
some have carved statues from lifeless blocks of wood; while others, by
engraving their inscriptions deep on tablets and monuments, have thought
to transmit the virtues of those whom they honored to perpetual remembrance.
All these indeed are perishable, and consumed by the lapse of time, being
representations of the corruptible body, and not expressing the image of
the immortal soul. And yet these seemed sufficient to those who had no
well-grounded hope of happiness after the termination of this mortal life.
But God, that God, I say, who is the common Savior of all, having treasured
up with himself, for those who love godliness, greater blessings than human
thought has conceived, gives the earnest and first-fruits of future rewards
even here, assuring in some sort immortal hopes to mortal eyes. The ancient
oracles of the prophets, delivered to us in the Scripture, declare this;
the lives of pious men, who shone in old time with every virtue, bear witness
to posterity of the same; and our own days prove it to be true, wherein
Constantine, who alone of all that ever wielded the Roman power was the
friend of God the Sovereign of all, has appeared to all mankind so clear
an example of a godly life.
CHAPTER IV: That God honored Constantine.
And God himself, whom Constantine
worshiped, has confirmed this truth by the clearest manifestations of his
will, being present to aid him at the commencement, during the course,
and at the end of his reign, and holding him up to the human race as an
instructive example of godliness. Accordingly, by the manifold blessings
he has conferred on him, he has distinguished him alone of all the sovereigns
of whom we have ever heard as at once a mighty luminary and most clear-voiced
herald of genuine piety.
CHAPTER V: That he reigned above
Thirty Years, and lived above Sixty.
With respect to the duration of his
reign, God honored him with three complete periods of ten years, and something
more, extending the whole term of his mortal life to twice this number
of years. And being pleased to make him a representative of his own sovereign
power, he displayed him as the conqueror of the whole race of tyrants,
and the destroyer of those God- defying giants of the earth who madly raised
their impious arms against him, the supreme King of all. They appeared,
so to speak, for an instant, and then disappeared: while the one and only
true God, when he had enabled his servant, clad in heavenly panoply, to
stand singly against many foes, and by his means had relieved mankind from
the multitude of the ungodly, constituted him a teacher of his worship
to all nations, to testify with a loud voice in the hearing of all that
he acknowledged the true God, and turned with abhorrence from the error
of them that are no gods.
CHAPTER VI: That he was the Servant
of God, and the Conqueror of Nations.
Thus, like a faithful and good servant,
did he act and testify, openly declaring and confessing himself the obedient
minister of the supreme King. And God forthwith rewarded him, by making
him ruler and sovereign, and victorious to such a degree that he alone
of all rulers pursued a continual course of conquest, unsubdued and invincible,
and through his trophies a greater ruler than tradition records ever to
have been before. So dear was he to God, and so blessed; so pious and so
fortunate in all that he undertook, that with the greatest facility he
obtained the authority over more nations than any who had preceded him,
and yet retained his power, undisturbed, to the very close of his life.
CHAPTER VII: Comparison with Cyrus,
King of the Persians and with Alexander of Macedon.
Ancient history describes Cyrus,
king of the Persians, as by far the most illustrious of all kings up to
his time. And yet if we regard the end of his days, we find it but little
corresponded with his past prosperity, since he met with an inglorious
and dishonorable death at the hands of a woman.
Again, the sons of Greece celebrate
Alexander the Macedonian as the conqueror of many and diverse nations;
yet we find that he was removed by an early death, before he had reached
maturity, being carried off by the effects of revelry and drunkenness.
His whole life embraced but the space of thirty-two years, and his reign
extended to no more than a third part of that period. Unsparing as the
thunderbolt, he advanced through streams of blood and reduced entire nations
and cities, young and old, to utter slavery. But when he had scarcely arrived
at the maturity of life, and was lamenting the loss of youthful pleasures,
death fell upon him with terrible stroke, and, that he might not longer
outrage the human race, cut him off in a foreign and hostile land, childless,
without successor, and homeless. His kingdom too was instantly dismembered,
each of his officers taking away and appropriating a portion for himself.
And yet this man is extolled for such deeds as these.
CHAPTER VIII: That he conquered nearly
the Whole World.
But our emperor began his reign at
the time of life at which the Macedonian died, yet doubled the length of
his life, and trebled the length of his reign. And instructing his army
in the mild and sober precepts of godliness, he carried his arms as far
as the Britons, and the nations that dwell in the very bosom of the Western
ocean. He subdued likewise all Scythia, though situated in the remotest
North, and divided into numberless diverse and barbarous tribes. He even
pushed his conquests to the Blemmyans and Ethiopians, on the very confines
of the South nor did he think the acquisition of the Eastern nations unworthy
his care. In short, diffusing the effulgence of his holy light to the ends
of the whole world, even to the most distant Indians, the nations dwelling
on the extreme circumference of the inhabited earth, he received the submission
of all the rulers, governors, and satraps of barbarous nations, who cheerfully
welcomed and saluted him, sending embassies and presents, and setting the
highest value on his acquaintance and friendship; in so much that they
honored him with pictures and statues in their respective countries, and
Constantine alone of all emperors was acknowledged and celebrated by all.
Notwithstanding, even among these distant nations, he proclaimed the name
of his God in his royal edicts with all boldness.
CHAPTER IX: That he was the Son of
a Pious Emperor, and bequeathed the Power to Royal Sons.
Nor did he give this testimony in
words merely, while exhibiting failure in his own practice, but pursued
every path of virtue, and was rich in the varied fruits of godliness. He
ensured the affection of his friends by magnificent proofs of liberality;
and inasmuch as he governed on principles of humanity, he caused his rule
to be but lightly felt and acceptable to all classes of his subjects; until
at last, after a long course of years, and when he was wearied by his divine
labors, the God whom he honored crowned him with an immortal reward, and
translated him from a transitory kingdom to that endless life which he
has laid up in store for the souls of his saints, after he had raised him
up three sons to succeed him in his power. As then the imperial throne
had descended to him from his father, so, by the law of nature, was it
reserved for his children and their descendants, and perpetuated, like
some paternal inheritance, to endless generations. And indeed God himself,
who distinguished this blessed prince with divine honors while yet present
with us, and who has adorned his death with choice blessings from his own
hand, should be the writer of his actions; since he has recorded his labors
and successes on heavenly monuments.
CHAPTER X: Of the Need for this History,
and its Value for Edification.
HOWEVER, hard as it is to speak worthily
of this blessed character, and though silence were the safer and less perilous
course, nevertheless it is incumbent on me, if I would escape the charge
of negligence and sloth, to trace as it were a verbal portraiture, by way
of memorial of the pious prince, in imitation of the delineations of human
art. For I should be ashamed of myself were I not to employ my best efforts,
feeble though they be and of little value, in praise of one who honored
God with such surpassing devotion. I think too that my work will be on
other grounds both instructive and necessary, since it will contain a description
of those royal and noble actions which are pleasing to God, the Sovereign
of all. For would it not be disgraceful that the memory of Nero, and other
impious and godless tyrants far worse than he, should meet with diligent
writers to embellish the relation of their worthless deeds with elegant
language, and record them in voluminous histories, and that I should be
silent, to whom God himself has vouchsafed such an emperor as all history
records not, and has permitted me to come into his presence, and enjoy
his acquaintance and society?
Wherefore, if it is the duty of any
one, it certainly is mine, to make an ample proclamation of his virtues
to all in whom the example of noble actions is capable of inspiring the
love of God. For some who have written the lives of worthless characters,
and the history of actions but little tending to the improvement of morals,
from private motives, either love or enmity, and possibly in some cases
with no better object than the display of their own learning, have exaggerated
unduly their description of actions intrinsically base, by a refinement
and elegance of diction. And thus they have become to those who by the
Divine favor had been kept apart from evil, teachers not of good, but of
what should be silenced in oblivion and darkness. But my narrative, however
unequal to the greatness of the deeds it has to describe, will yet derive
luster even from the bare relation of noble actions. And surely the record
of conduct that has been pleasing to God will afford a far from unprofitable,
indeed a most instructive study, to persons of well-disposed minds.
CHAPTER XI: That his Present Object
is to record only the Pious Actions of Constantine.
IT is my intention, therefore, to
pass over the greater part of the royal deeds of this thrice blessed prince;
as, for example, his conflicts and engagements in the field, his personal
valor, his victories and successes against the enemy, and the many triumphs
he obtained: likewise his provisions for the interests of individuals,
his legislative enactments for the social advantage of his subjects, and
a multitude of other imperial labors which are fresh in the memory of all;
the design of my present undertaking being to speak and write of those
circumstances only which have reference to his religious character.
And since these are themselves of
almost infinite variety, I shall select from the facts which have come
to my knowledge such as are most suitable, and worthy of lasting record,
and endeavor to narrate them as briefly as possible. Henceforward, indeed,
there is a full and opportunity for celebrating in every way the praises
of this truly blessed prince, which hitherto we have been unable to do,
oh the ground that we are forbidden to judge any one blessed before his
death, because of the uncertain vicissitudes of life. Let me implore then
the help of God, and may the inspiring aid of the heavenly Word be with
me, while I commence my history from the very earliest period of his life.
CHAPTER XII: That like Moses, he
was reared in the Palaces of Kings.
ANCIENT history relates that a cruel
race of tyrants oppressed the Hebrew nation; and that God, who graciously
regarded them in their affliction, provided that the prophet Moses, who
was then an infant, should be brought up in the very palaces and bosoms
of the oppressors, and instructed in all the wisdom they possessed. And
when in the course of time he had arrived at manhood, and the time was
come for Divine justice to avenge the wrongs of the afflicted people, then
the prophet of God, in obedience to the will of a more powerful Lord, forsook
the royal household, and, estranging himself in word and deed from the
tyrants by whom he had been brought up, openly acknowledging his true brethren
and kinsfolk. Then God, exalting him to be the leader of the whole nation,
delivered the Hebrews from the bondage of their enemies, and inflicted
Divine vengeance through his means on the tyrant race. This ancient story,
though rejected by most as fabulous, has reached the ears of all. But now
the same God has given to us to be eye-witnesses of miracles more wonderful
than fables, and, from their recent appearance, more authentic than any
report. For the tyrants of our day have ventured to war against the Supreme
God, and have sorely afflicted His Church. And in the midst of these, Constantine,
who was shortly to become their destroyer, but at that time of tender age,
and blooming with the down of early s youth, dwelt, as that other servant
of God had done, in the very home of the tyrants, but t young as he was
did not share the manner of life of the ungodly: for from that early period
his noble nature, under the leading of the Divine Spirit, inclined him
to piety and a life acceptable to God. A desire, moreover, to emulate the
example of his father had its influence in stimulating the son to a virtuous
course of conduct His father was Constantius (and we ought to revive
his memory at this time), the most illustrious emperor of our age; of whose
life it is necessary briefly to relate a few particulars, which tell to
the honor of his son.
CHAPTER XIII: Of Constantius his
Father, who refused to imitate Diocletian, Maximian, and Maxentius, in
their Persecution of the Christians.
At a time when four emperors shared
the administration of the Roman empire, Constantius alone, following a
course of conduct different from that pursued by his colleagues, entered
into the friendship of the Supreme God.
For while they besieged and wasted
the churches of God, leveling them to the ground, and obliterating the
very foundations of the houses of prayer, he kept his hands pure from their
abominable impiety, and never in any respect resembled them. They polluted
their provinces by the indiscriminate slaughter of godly men and women;
but he kept his soul free from the stain of this crime. The involved in
the mazes of impious idolatry, enthralled first themselves, and then all
under their authority, in bondage to the errors of evil demons, while he
at the same time originated the profoundest peace throughout his dominions,
and secured to his subjects the privilege of celebrating without hindrance
the worship of God. In short, while his colleagues oppressed all men by
the most grievous exactions, and rendered their lives intolerable, and
even worse than death, Constantius alone governed his people with a mild
and tranquil sway, and exhibited towards them a truly parental and fostering
care. Numberless, indeed, are the other virtues of this man, which are
the theme of praise to all; of these I will record one or two instances,
as specimens of the quality of those which I must pass by in silence, and
then I will proceed to the appointed order of my narrative.
CHAPTER XIV: How Constantius his
Father, being reproached with Poverty by Diocletian, filled his Treasury,
and afterwards restored the Money to those by whom it had been contributed.
In consequence of the many reports
in circulation respecting this prince, describing his kindness and gentleness
of character, and the extraordinary elevation of his piety, alleging too,
that by reason of his extreme indulgence to his subjects, he had not even
a supply of money laid up in his treasury; the emperor who at that time
occupied the place of supreme power sent to reprehend his neglect of the
public weal, at the same time reproaching him with poverty, and alleging
in proof of the charge the empty state of his treasury. On this he desired
the messengers of the emperor to remain with him awhile, and, calling together
the wealthiest of his subjects of all nations under his dominion, he informed
them that he was in want of money, and that this was the time for them
all to give a voluntary proof of their affection for their prince.
As soon as they heard this (as though
they had long been desirous of an opportunity for showing the sincerity
of their good will), with zealous alacrity they filled the treasury with
gold and silver and other wealth; each eager to surpass the rest in the
amount of his contribution: and this they did with cheerful and joyous
countenances. And now Constantius desired the messengers of the great emperor
personally to inspect his treasures, and directed them to give a faithful
report of what they had seen; adding, that on the present occasion he had
taken this money into his own hands, but that it had long been kept for
his use in the custody of the owners, as securely as if under the charge
of faithful treasurers. The ambassadors were overwhelmed with astonishment
at what they had witnessed: and on their departure it is said that the
truly generous prince sent for the owners of the property, and, after commending
them severally for their obedience and true loyalty, restored it all, and
bade them return to their homes.
This one circumstance, then, conveys
a proof of the generosity of him whose character we are attempting to illustrate:
another will contain the clearest testimony to his piety.
CHAPTER XV: Of the Persecution raised
by his Colleagues.
By command of the supreme authorities
of the empire, the governors of the several provinces had set on foot a
general persecution of the godly. Indeed, it was from the imperial courts
themselves that the very first of the pious martyrs proceeded, who passed
through those conflicts for the faith, and most readily endured both fire
and sword, and the depths of the sea; every form of death, in short, so
that in a brief time all the royal palaces were bereft of pious men. The
result was, that the authors of this wickedness were entirely deprived
of the protecting care of God, since by their persecution of his worshipers
they at the same time silenced the prayers that were wont to be made on
their own behalf.
CHAPTER XVI: How Constantius, feigning
Idolatry, expelled those who consented to offer Sacrifice, but retained
in his Palace all who were willing to confess Christ.
On the other hand, Constantius conceived
an expedient full of sagacity, and did a thing which sounds paradoxical,
but in fact was most admirable.
He made a proposal to all the officers
of his court, including even those in the highest stations of authority,
offering them the following alternative: either that they should offer
sacrifice to demons, and thus be permitted to remain with him, and enjoy
their usual honors; or, in case of refusal, that they should be shut out
from all access to his person, and entirely disqualified from acquaintance
and association with him. Accordingly, when they had individually made
their choice, some one way and some the other; and the choice of each had
been ascertained, then this admirable prince disclosed the secret meaning
of his expedient, and condemned the cowardice and selfishness of the one
party, while he highly commended the other for their conscientious devotion
to God. He declared, too, that those who had been false to their God must
be unworthy of the confidence of their prince; for how was it possible
that they should preserve their fidelity to him, who had proved themselves
faithless to a higher power? He determined, therefore, that such persons
should be removed altogether from the imperial court, while, on the other
hand, declaring that those men who, in bearing witness for the truth, had
proved themselves to be worthy servants of God, would manifest the same
fidelity to their king, he entrusted them with the guardianship of his
person and empire, saying that he was bound to treat such persons with
special regard as his nearest and most valued friends, and to esteem them
far more highly than the richest treasures.
CHAPTER XVII: Of his Christian Manner
The father of Constantine, then,
is said to have possessed such a character as we have briefly described.
And what kind of death was vouchsafed to him in consequence of such devotion
to God, and how far he whom he honored made his lot to differ from that
of his colleagues in the empire, may be known to any one who will give
his attention to the circumstances of the case. For after he had for a
long time given many proofs of royal virtue, in acknowledging the Supreme
God alone, and condemning the polytheism of the ungodly, and had fortified
his household by the prayers of holy men, he passed the remainder of his
life in remarkable repose and tranquillity, in the enjoyment of what is
counted blessedness, --neither molesting others nor being molested ourselves.
Accordingly, during the whole course
of his quiet and peaceful reign, he dedicated his entire household, his
children, his wife, and domestic attendants, to the One Supreme God: so
that the company assembled within the walls of his palace differed in no
respect from a church of God; wherein were also to be found his ministers,
who offered continual supplications on behalf of their prince, and this
at a time when, with most, it was not allowable to have any dealings with
the worshipers of God, even so far as to exchange a word with them.
CHAPTER XVIII: That after the Abdication
of Diocletian and Maximian, Constantius became Chief Augustus, and was
blessed with a Numerous Offspring.
The immediate consequence of this
conduct was a recompense from the hand of God, insomuch that he came into
the supreme authority of the empire. For the older emperors, for some unknown
reason, resigned their power; and this sudden change took place in the
first year after their persecution of the churches.
From that time Constantius alone
received the honors of chief Augustus, having been previously, indeed,
distinguished by the diadem of the imperial Caesars, among whom he held
the first rank; but after his worth had been proved in this capacity, he
was invested with the highest dignity of the Roman empire, being named
chief Augustus of the four who were afterwards elected to that honor. Moreover,
he surpassed most of the emperors in regard to the number of his family,
having gathered around him a very large circle of children both male and
female. And, lastly, when he had attained to a happy old age, and was about
to pay the common debt of nature, and exchange this life for another, God
once more manifested His power in a special manner on his behalf, by providing
that his eldest son Constantine should be present during his last moments,
and ready to receive the imperial power from his hands.
CHAPTER XIX: Of his Son Constantine,
who in his Youth accompanied Diocletian into Palestine.
The latter had been with his father's
imperial colleagues, and had passed his life among them, as we have said,
like God's ancient prophet. And even in the very earliest period of his
youth he was judged by them to be worthy of the highest honor. An instance
of this we have ourselves seen, when he passed through Palestine with the
senior emperor, at whose right hand he stood, and commanded the admiration
of all who beheld him by the indications he gave even then of royal greatness.
For no one was comparable to him for grace and beauty of person, or height
of stature; and he so far surpassed his peers in personal strength as to
be a terror to them. He was, however, even more conspicuous for the excellence
of his mental qualities than for his superior physical endowments; being
gifted in the first place with a sound judgment, and having also reaped
the advantages of a liberal education. He was also distinguished in no
ordinary degree both by natural intelligence and divinely imparted wisdom.
CHAPTER XX: Flight of Constantine
to his Father because of the Plots of Diocletian.
The emperors then in power, observing
his manly and vigorous figure and superior mind, were moved with feelings
of jealousy and fear, and thenceforward carefully watched for an opportunity
of inflicting some brand of disgrace on his character. But the young man,
being aware of their designs, the details of which, through the providence
of God, more than once came to him, sought safety in flight; in this respect
again keeping up his resemblance to the great prophet Moses. Indeed, in
every sense God was his helper; and he had before ordained that he should
be present in readiness to succeed his father.
CHAPTER XXI: Death of Constantius,
who leaves his Son Constantine Emperor.
IMMEDIATELY, therefore, on his escape
from the plots which had been thus insidiously laid for him, he made his
way with all haste to his father, and arrived at length at the very time
that he was lying at the point of death. As soon as Constantius saw his
son thus unexpectedly in his presence, he leaped from his couch, embraced
him tenderly, and, declaring that the only anxiety which had troubled him
in the prospect of death, namely, that caused by the absence of his son,
was now removed, he rendered thanks to God, saying that he now thought
death better than the longest life, and at once completed the arrangement
of his private affairs. Then, taking a final leave of the circle of sons
and daughters by whom he was surrounded, in his own palace, and on the
imperial couch, he bequeathed the empire, according to the law of nature,
to his eldest son, and breathed his last.
CHAPTER XXII: How, after the Burial
of Constantius, Constantine was proclaimed Augustus by the Army.
Nor did the imperial throne remain
long unoccupied: for Constantine invested himself with his father's purple,
and proceeded from his father's palace, presenting to all a renewal, as
it were, in his own person, of his father's life and reign. He then conducted
the funeral procession in company with his father's friends, some preceding,
others following the train, and performed the last offices for the pious
deceased with an extraordinary degree of magnificence, and all united in
honoring this thrice blessed prince with acclamations and praises, and
while with one mind and voice, they glorified the rule of the son as a
living again of him who was dead, they hastened at once to hail their new
sovereign by the titles of Imperial and Worshipful Augustus, with joyful
shouts. Thus the memory of the deceased emperor received honor from the
praises bestowed upon his son, while the latter was pronounced blessed
in being the successor of such a father. All the nations also under his
dominion were filled with joy and inexpressible gladness at not being even
for a moment deprived of the benefits of a well ordered government.
In the instance of the Emperor Constantius,
God has made manifest to our generation what the end of those is who in
their lives have honored and loved him.
CHAPTER XXIII: A Brief Notice of
the Destruction of the Tyrants.
With respect to the other princes,
who made war against the churches of God, I have not thought it fit in
the present work to give any account of their downfall, nor to stain the
memory of the good by mentioning them in connection with those of an opposite
character. The knowledge of the facts themselves will of itself suffice
for the wholesome admonition of those who have witnessed or heard of the
evils which severely befell them.
CHAPTER XXIV: It was by the Will
of God that Constantine became possessed of the Empire.
Thus then the God of all, the Supreme
Governor of the whole universe, by his own will appointed Constantine,
the descendant of so renowned a parent, to be prince and sovereign: so
that, while others have been raised to this distinction by the election
of their fellow men, he is the only one to whose elevation no mortal
may boast of having contributed.
CHAPTER XXV: Victories of Constantine
over the Britons.
As soon then as he was established
on the throne, he began to care for the interests of his paternal inheritance,
and visited with much considerate kindness all those provinces which had
previously been under his father's government. Some tribes of the barbarians
who dwelt on the banks of the Rhine, and the shores of the Western ocean,
having ventured to revolt, he reduced them all to obedience, and brought
them from their savage state to one of gentleness. He contented himself
with checking the inroads of others, and drove from his dominions, like
untamed and savage beasts, those whom he perceived to be altogether incapable
of the settled order of civilized life. Having disposed of these affairs
to his satisfaction, he directed his attention to other quarters of the
world, and first passed over to the British nations, which lie in the very
bosom of the ocean. These he reduced to submission, and then proceeded
to consider the state of the remaining portions of the empire, that he
might be ready to tender his aid wherever circumstances might require it.
CHAPTER XXVI: How he resolved to
deliver Rome from Maxentius.
While, therefore, he regarded the
entire world as one immense body, and perceived that the head of it all,
the royal city of the Roman empire, was bowed down by the weight of a tyrannous
oppression; at first he had left the task of liberation to those who governed
the other divisions of the empire, as being his superiors in point of age.
But when none of these proved able to afford relief, and those who had
attempted it had experienced a disastrous termination of their enterprise,
he said that life was without enjoyment to him as long as he saw the imperial
city thus afflicted, and prepared himself for the overthrowal of the tyranny.
CHAPTER XXVII: That after reflecting
on the Dawn fall of those who had worshiped Idols, he made Choice of Christianity.
Being convinced, however, that he
needed some more powerful aid than his military forces could afford him,
on account of the wicked and magical enchantments which were so diligently
practiced by the tyrant, he sought Divine assistance, deeming the possession
of arms and a numerous soldiery of secondary importance, but believing
the co-operating power of Deity invincible and not to be shaken. He considered,
therefore, on what God he might rely for protection and assistance. While
engaged in this inquiry, the thought occurred to him, that, of the many
emperors who had preceded him, those who had rested their hopes in a multitude
of gods, and served them with sacrifices and offerings, had in the first
place been deceived by flattering predictions, and oracles which promised
them all prosperity, and at last had met with an unhappy end, while not
one of their gods had stood by to warn them of the impending wrath of heaven;
while one alone who had pursued an entirely opposite course, who had condemned
their error, and honored the one Supreme God during his whole life, had
formally asked him to be the Savior and Protector of his empire, and the
Giver of every good thing. Reflecting on this, and well weighing the fact
that they who had trusted in many gods had also fallen by manifold forms
of death, without leaving behind them either family or offspring, stock,
name, or memorial among men: while the God of his father had given to him,
on the other hand, manifestations of his power and very many tokens: and
considering farther that those who had already taken arms against the tyrant,
and had marched to the battlefield under the protection of a multitude
of gods, had met with a dishonorable end (for one of them had shamefully
retreated from the contest without a blow, and the other, being slain in
the midst of his own troops, became, as it were, the mere sport of death
); reviewing, I say, all these considerations, he judged it to be folly
indeed to join in the idle worship of those who were no gods, and, after
such convincing evidence, to err from the truth; and therefore felt it
incumbent on him to honor his father's God alone.
CHAPTER XXVIII: How, while he was
praying, God sent him a Vision of a Cross of Light in the Heavens at Midday,
with an Inscription admonishing him to conquer by that.
ACCORDINGLY he called on him with
earnest prayer and supplications that he would reveal to him who he was,
and stretch forth his right hand to help him in his present difficulties.
And while he was thus praying with fervent entreaty, a most marvelous sign
appeared to him from heaven, the account of which it might have been hard
to believe had it been related by any other person. But since the victorious
emperor himself long afterwards declared it to the writer of this history,
when he was honored with his acquaintance and society, and confirmed his
statement by an oath, who could hesitate to accredit the relation, especially
since the testimony of after- time has established its truth? He said that
about noon, when the day was already beginning to decline, he saw with
his own eyes the trophy of a cross of light in the heavens, above the sun,
and bearing the inscription, CONQUER BY THIS. At this sight he himself
was struck with amazement, and his whole army also, which followed him
on this expedition, and witnessed the miracle.
CHAPTER XXIX: How the Christ of God
appeared to him in his Sleep, and commanded him to use in his Wars a Standard
made in the Form of the Cross.
He said, moreover, that he doubted
within himself what the import of this apparition could be. And while he
continued to ponder and reason on its meaning, night suddenly came on;
then in his sleep the Christ of God appeared to him with the same sign
which he had seen in the heavens, and commanded him to make a likeness
of that sign which he had seen in the heavens, and to use it as a safeguard
in all engagements with his enemies.
CHAPTER XXX: The Making of the Standard
of the Cross.
AT dawn of day he arose, and communicated
the marvel to his friends: and then, calling together the workers in gold
and precious stones, he sat in the midst of them, and described to them
the figure of the sign he had seen, bidding them represent it in gold and
precious stones. And this representation I myself have had an opportunity
CHAPTER XXXI: A Description of the
Standard of the Cross, which the Romans now call the Labarum.
Now it was made in the following
manner. A long spear, overlaid with gold, formed the figure of the cross
by means of a transverse bar laid over it. On the top of the whole was
fixed a wreath of gold and precious stones; and within this, the symbol
of the Savior's name, two letters indicating the name of Christ by means
of its initial characters, the letter P being intersected by X in its center:
and these letters the emperor was in the habit of wearing on his helmet
at a later period. From the cross-bar of the spear was suspended a cloth,
a royal piece, covered with a profuse embroidery of most brilliant precious
stones; and which, being also richly interlaced with gold, presented an
indescribable degree of beauty to the beholder. This banner was of a square
form, and the upright staff, whose lower section was of great length, bore
a golden half-length portrait of the pious emperor and his children on
its upper part, beneath the trophy of the cross, and immediately above
the embroidered banner.
The emperor constantly made use of
this sign of salvation as a safeguard against every adverse and hostile
power, and commanded that others similar to it should be carried at the
head of all his armies.
CHAPTER XXXII: How Constantine received
Instruction, and read the Sacred Scriptures.
These things were done shortly afterwards.
But at the time above specified, being struck with amazement at the extraordinary
vision, and resolving to worship no other God save Him who had appeared
to him, he sent for those who were acquainted with the mysteries of His
doctrines, and inquired who that God was, and what was intended by the
sign of the vision he had seen. They affirmed that He was God, the only
begotten Son of the one and only God: that the sign which had appeared
was the symbol of immortality, and the trophy of that victory over death
which He had gained in time past when sojourning on earth. They taught
him also the causes of His advent, and explained to him the true account
of His incarnation. Thus he was instructed in these matters, and was impressed
with wonder at the divine manifestation which had been presented to his
sight. Comparing, therefore, the heavenly vision with the interpretation
given, he found his judgment confirmed; and, in the persuasion that the
knowledge of these things had been imparted to him by Divine teaching,
he determined thenceforth to devote himself to the reading of the Inspired
Moreover, he made the priests of
God his counselors, and deemed it incumbent on him to honor the God who
had appeared to him with all devotion. And after this, being fortified
by well-grounded hopes in Him, he hastened to quench the threatening fire
CHAPTER XXXIII: Of the Adulterous
Conduct of Maxentius at Rome.
For the who had tyrannically possessed
himself of the imperial city, had proceeded to great lengths in impiety
and wickedness, so as to venture without hesitation on every vile and impure
For example: he would separate women
from their husbands, and after a time send them back to them again, and
these insults he offered not to men of mean or obscure condition, but to
those who held the first places in the Roman senate. Moreover, though he
shamefully dishonored almost numberless free women, he was unable to satisfy
his ungoverned and intemperate desires. But when he assayed to corrupt
Christian women also, he could no longer secure success to his designs,
since they chose rather to submit their lives to death than yield their
persons to be defiled by him.
CHAPTER XXXIV: How the Wife of a
Prefect slew herself for Chastity's Sake.
Now a certain woman, wife of one
of the senators who held the authority of prefect, when she understood
that those who ministered to the tyrant in such matters were standing before
her house (she was a Christian), and knew that her husband through fear
had bidden them take her and lead her away, begged a short space of time
for arraying herself in her usual dress, and entered her chamber. There,
being left alone, she sheathed a sword in her own breast, and immediately
expired, leaving indeed her dead body to the procurers, but declaring to
all mankind, both to present and future generations, by an act which spoke
louder than any words, that the chastity for which Christians are famed
is the only thing which is invincible and indestructible. Such was the
conduct displayed by this woman.
CHAPTER XXXV: Massacre of the Roman
People by Maxentius.
All men, therefore, both people and
magistrates, whether of high or low degree, trembled through fear of him
whose daring wickedness was such as I have described, and were oppressed
by his grievous tyranny. Nay, though they submitted quietly, and endured
this bitter servitude, still there was no escape from the tyrant's sanguinary
cruelty. For at one time, on some trifling pretense, he exposed the populace
to be slaughtered by his own body-guard; and countless multitudes of the
Roman people were slain in the very midst of the city by the lances and
weapons, not of Scythians or barbarians, but of their own fellow-citizens.
And besides this, it is impossible to calculate the number of senators
whose blood was shed with a view to the seizure of their respective estates,
for at different times and on various fictitious charges, multitudes of
them suffered death.
CHAPTER XXXVI: Magic Arts of Maxentius
against Constantine; and Famine at Rome.
BUT the crowning point of the tyrant's
wickedness was his having recourse to sorcery: sometimes for magic purposes
ripping up women with child, at other times searching into the bowels of
new-born infants. He slew lions also and practiced certain horrid arts
for evoking demons, and averting the approaching war, hoping by these means
to get the victory. In short, it is impossible to describe the manifold
acts of oppression by which this tyrant of Rome enslaved his subjects:
so that by this time they were reduced to the most extreme penury and want
of necessary food, a scarcity such as our contemporaries do not remember
ever before to have existed at Rome.
CHAPTER XXXVII: Defeat of the Armies
of Maxentius in Italy.
Constantine, however, filled with
compassion on account of all these miseries, began to arm himself with
all warlike preparation against the tyranny. Assuming therefore the Supreme
God as his patron, and invoking His Christ to be his preserver and aid,
and setting the victorious trophy, the salutary symbol, in front of his
soldiers and body- guard, he marched with his whole forces, trying to obtain
again for the Romans the freedom they had inherited from their ancestors.
And whereas, Maxentius, trusting
more in his magic arts than in the affection of his subjects, dared not
even advance outside the city gates, but had guarded every place and district
and city subject to his tyranny, with large bodies of soldiers, the emperor,
confiding in the help of God, advanced against the first and second and
third divisions of the tyrant's forces, defeated them all with ease at
the first assault, and made his way into the very interior of Italy.
CHAPTER XXXVIII: Death of Maxentius
on the Bridge of the Tiber.
And already he was approaching very
near Rome itself, when, to save him from the necessity of fighting with
all the Romans for the tyrant's sake, God himself drew the tyrant, as it
were by secret cords, a long way outside the gates. And now those miracles
recorded in Holy Writ, which God of old wrought against the ungodly (discredited
by most as fables, yet believed by the faithful), did he in every deed
confirm to all alike, believers and unbelievers, who were eye-witnesses
of the wonders. For as once in the days of Moses and the Hebrew nation,
who were worshipers of God, "Pharaoh's chariots and his host hath he cast
into the sea and his chosen chariot-captains are drowned in the Red Sea,"
--so at this time Maxentius, and the soldiers and guards with him, "went
down into the depths like stone," when, in his flight before the divinely-aided
forces of Constantine, he assayed to cross the river which lay in his way,
over which, making a strong bridge of boats, he had framed an engine of
destruction, really against himself, but in the hope of snaring thereby
him who was beloved by God. For his God stood by the one to protect him,
while the other, godless, proved to be the miserable contriver of these
secret devices to his own ruin. So that one might well say, "He hath made
a pit, and digged it, and is fallen into the ditch which he made. His mischief
shall return upon his own head, and his violence shall. come down upon
his own pate." Thus, in the present instance, under divine direction, the
machine erected on the bridge, with the ambuscade concealed therein, giving
way unexpectedly before the appointed time, the bridge began to sink, and
the boats with the men in them went bodily to the bottom. And first the
wretch himself, then his armed attendants and guards, even as the sacred
oracles had before described, "sank as lead in the mighty waters." So that
they who thus obtained victory from God might well, if not in the same
words, yet in fact in the same spirit as the people of his great servant
Moses, sing and speak as they did concerning the impious tyrant of old:
"Let us sing unto the Lord, for he hath been glorified exceedingly: the
horse and his rider hath he thrown into the sea. He is become my helper
and my shield unto salvation." And again, "Who is like unto thee, O Lord,
among the gods? who is like thee, glorious in holiness, marvelous in praises,
CHAPTER XXXIX: Constantine's Entry
HAVING then at this time sung these
and suchlike praises to God, the Ruler of all and the Author of victory,
after the example of his great servant Moses, Constantine entered the imperial
city in triumph. And here the whole body of the senate, and others of rank
and distinction in the city, freed as it were from the restraint of a prison,
along with the whole Roman populace, their countenances expressive of the
gladness of their hearts, received him with acclamations and abounding
joy; men, women, and children, with countless multitudes of servants, greeting
him as deliverer, preserver, and benefactor, with incessant shouts. But
he, being possessed of inward piety toward God, was neither rendered arrogant
by these plaudits, nor uplifted by the praises he heard: but, being sensible
that he had received help from God, he immediately rendered a thanksgiving
to him as the Author of his victory.
CHAPTER XL: Of the Statue of Constantine
holding a Cross, and its Inscription.
MOREOVER, by loud proclamation and
monumental inscriptions he made known to all men the salutary symbol, setting
up this great trophy of victory over his enemies in the midst of the imperial
city, and expressly causing it to be engraved in indelible characters,
that the salutary symbol was the safeguard of the Roman government and
of the entire empire. Accordingly, he immediately ordered a lofty spear
in the figure of a cross to be placed beneath the hand of a statue representing
himself, in the most frequented part of Rome, and the following inscription
to be engraved on it in the Latin language: BY VIRTUE OF THIS SALUTARY
SIGN, WHICH IS THE TRUE TEST OF VALOR, I HAVE PRESERVED AND LIBERATED YOUR
CITY FROM THE YOKE OF TYRANNY. I HAVE ALSO SET AT LIBERTY THE ROMAN SENATE
AND PEOPLE, AND RESTORED THEM TO THEIR ANCIENT DISTINCTION AND SPLENDOR.
CHAPTER XLI: Rejoicings throughout
the Provinces; and Constantine's Acts of Grace.
Thus the pious emperor, glorying
in the confession of the victorious cross, proclaimed the Son of God to
the Romans with great boldness of testimony. And the inhabitants of the
city, one and all, senate and people, reviving, as it were, from the pressure
of a bitter and tyrannical domination, seemed to enjoy purer rays of light,
and to be born again into a fresh and new life. All the nations, too, as
far as the limit of the western ocean, being set free from the calamities
which had heretofore beset them, and gladdened by joyous festivals, ceased
not to praise him as the victorious, the pious, the common benefactor:
all, indeed, with one voice and one mouth, declared that Constantine had
appeared by the grace of God as a general blessing to mankind. The imperial
edict also was everywhere published, whereby those who had been wrongfully
deprived of their estates were permitted again to enjoy their own, while
those who had unjustly suffered exile were recalled to their homes. Moreover,
he freed from imprisonment, and from every kind of danger and fear, those
who, by reason of the tyrant's cruelty, had been subject to these sufferings.
CHAPTER XLII: The Honors conferred
upon Bishops, and the Building of Churches.
The emperor also personally inviting
the society of God's ministers, distinguished them with the highest possible
respect and honor, showing them favor in deed and word as persons consecrated
to the service of his God. Accordingly, they were admitted to his table,
though mean in their attire and outward appearance; yet not so in his estimation,
since he thought he saw not the man as seen by the vulgar eye, but the
God in him. He made them also his companions in travel, believing that
He whose servants they were would thus help him. Besides this, he gave
from his own private resources costly benefactions to the churches of God,
both enlarging and heightening the sacred edifices, and embellishing the
august sanctuaries of the church with abundant offerings.
CHAPTER XLIII: Constantine's Liberality
to the Poor.
He likewise distributed money largely
to those who were in need, and besides these showing himself philanthropist
and benefactor even to the heathen, who had no claim on him; and even for
the beggars in the forum, miserable and shiftless, he provided, not with
money only, or necessary food, but also decent clothing. But in the case
of those who had once been prosperous, and had experienced a reverse of
circumstances, his aid was still more lavishly bestowed. On such persons,
in a truly royal spirit, he conferred magnificent benefactions; giving
grants of land to some, and honoring others with various dignities. Orphans
of the unfortunate he cared for as a father, while he relieved the destitution
of widows, and cared for them with special solicitude. Nay, he even gave
virgins, left unprotected by their parents' death, in marriage to wealthy
men with whom he was personally acquainted. But this he did after first
bestowing on the brides such portions as it was fitting they should bring
to the communion of marriage. In short, as the sun, when he rises upon
the earth, liberally imparts his rays of light to all, so did Constantine,
proceeding at early dawn from the imperial palace, and rising as it were
with the heavenly luminary, impart the rays of his own beneficence to all
who came into his presence. It was scarcely possible to be near him without
receiving some benefit, nor did it ever happen that any who had expected
to obtain his assistance were disappointed in their hope.
CHAPTER XLIV: How he was present
at the Synods of Bishops.
SUCH, then, was his general character
towards all. But he exercised a peculiar care over the church of God: and
whereas, in the several provinces there were some who differed from each
other in judgment, he, like some general bishop constituted by God, convened
synods of his ministers. Nor did he disdain to be present and sit with
them in their assembly, but bore a share in their deliberations, ministering
to all that pertained to the peace of God. He took his seat, too, in the
midst of them, as an individual amongst many, dismissing his guards and
soldiers, and all whose duty it was to defend his person; but protected
by the fear of God, and surrounded by the guardianship of his faithful
friends. Those whom he saw inclined to a sound judgment, and exhibiting
a calm and conciliatory temper, received his high approbation, for he evidently
delighted in a general harmony of sentiment; while he regarded the unyielding
CHAPTER XLV: His Forbearance with
MOREOVER he endured with patience
some who were exasperated against himself, directing them in mild and gentle
terms to control themselves, and not be turbulent. And some of these respected
his admonitions, and desisted; but as to those who proved incapable of
sound judgment, he left them entirely at the disposal of God, and never
himself desired harsh measures against any one. Hence it naturally happened
that the disaffected in Africa reached such a pitch of violence as even
to venture on overt acts of audacity; some evil spirit, as it seems probable,
being jealous of the present great prosperity, and impelling these men
to atrocious deeds, that he might excite the emperor's anger against them.
He gained nothing, however, by this malicious conduct; for the emperor
laughed at these proceedings, and declared their origin to be from the
evil one; inasmuch as these were not the actions of sober persons, but
of lunatics or demoniacs; who should be pitied rather than punished; since
to punish madmen is as great folly as to sympathize with their condition
is supreme philanthropy.
CHAPTER XLVI: Victories aver the
THUS the emperor in all his actions
honored God, the Controller of all things, and exercised an unwearied oversight
over His churches. And God requited him, by subduing all barbarous nations
under his feet, so that he was able everywhere to raise trophies over his
enemies: and He proclaimed him as conqueror to all mankind, and made him
a terror to his adversaries: not indeed that this was his natural character,
since he was rather the meekest, and gentlest, and most benevolent of men.
CHAPTER XLVII: Death of Maximin,
who had attempted a Conspiracy, and of Others whom Constantine detected
by Divine Revelation.
WHILE he was thus engaged, the second
of those who had resigned the throne, being detected in a treasonable conspiracy,
suffered a most ignominious death. He was the first whose pictures, statues,
and all similar marks of honor and distinction were everywhere destroyed,
on the ground of his crimes and impiety. After him others also of the same
family were discovered in the act of forming secret plots against the emperor;
all their intentions being miraculously revealed by God through visions
to His servant.
For he frequently vouchsafed to him
manifestations of himself, the Divine presence appearing to him in a most
marvelous manner, and according to him manifold intimations of future events.
Indeed, it is impossible to express in words the indescribable wonders
of Divine grace which God was pleased to vouchsafe to His servant. Surrounded
by these, he passed the rest of his life in security, rejoicing in the
affection of his subjects, rejoicing too because he saw all beneath his
government leading contented lives; but above all delighted at the flourishing
condition of the churches of God.
CHAPTER XLVIII: Celebration of Constantine's
WHILE he was thus circumstanced,
he completed the tenth year of his reign. On this occasion he ordered the
celebration of general festivals, and offered prayers of thanksgiving to
God, the King of all, as sacrifices without flame or smoke. And from this
employment he derived much pleasure: not so from the tidings he received
of the ravages committed in the Eastern provinces.
CHAPTER XLIX: How Licinius oppressed
FOR he was informed that in that
quarter a certain savage beast was besetting both the church of God and
the other inhabitants of the provinces, owing, as it were, to the efforts
of the evil spirit to produce effects quite contrary to the deeds of the
pious emperor: so that the Roman empire, divided into two parts, seemed
to all men to resemble night and day; since darkness overspread the provinces
of the East, while the brightest day illumined the inhabitants of the other
portion. And whereas the latter were receiving manifold blessings at the
hand of God, the sight of these blessings proved intolerable to that envy
which hates all good, as well as to the tyrant who afflicted the other
division of the empire; and who, notwithstanding that his government was
prospering, and he had been honored by a marriage connection with so great
an emperor as Constantine, yet cared not to follow the steps of that pious
prince, but strove rather to imitate the evil purposes and practice of
the impious; and chose to adopt the course of those whose ignominious end
he had seen with his own eyes, rather than to maintain amicable relations
with him who was his superior.
CHAPTER L: How Licinius attempted
a Conspiracy against Constantine.
ACCORDINGLY he engaged in an implacable
war against his benefactor, altogether regardless of the laws of friendship,
the obligation of oaths, the ties of kindred, and already existing treaties.
For the most benignant emperor had given him a proof of sincere affection
in bestowing on him the hand of his sister, thus granting him the privilege
of a place in family relationship and his own ancient imperial descent,
and investing him also with the rank and dignity of his colleague in the
empire. But the other took the very opposite course, employing himself
in machinations against his superior, and devising various means to repay
his benefactor with injuries. At first, pretending friendship, he did all
things by guile and treachery, expecting thus to succeed in concealing
his designs; but God enabled his servant to detect the schemes thus devised
in darkness. Being discovered, however, in his first attempts, he had recourse
to fresh frauds; at one time pretending friendship, at another claiming
the protection of solemn treaties. Then suddenly violating every engagement,
and again beseeching pardon by embassies, yet after all shamefully violating
his word, he at last declared open war, and with desperate infatuation
resolved thenceforward to carry arms against God himself, whose worshiper
he knew the emperor to be.
CHAPTER LI: Intrigues of Licinius
against the Bishops, and his Prohibition of Synods.
AND at first he made secret inquiry
respecting the ministers of God subject to his dominion, who had never,
indeed, in any respect offended against his government, in order to bring
false accusations against them. And when he found no ground of accusation,
and had no real ground of objection against them, he next enacted a law,
to the effect that the bishops should never on any account hold communication
with each other, nor should any one of them absent himself on a visit to
a neighboring church; nor, lastly, should the holding of synods, or councils
for the consideration of affairs of common interest, be permitted. Now
this was clearly a pretext for displaying his malice against us. For we
were compelled either to violate the law, and thus be amenable to punishment,
or else, by compliance with its injunctions, to nullify the statutes of
the Church; inasmuch as it is impossible to bring important questions to
a satisfactory adjustment, except by means of synods. In other cases also
this God-hater, being determined to act contrary to the God-loving prince,
enacted such things. For whereas the one assembled the priests of God in
order to honor them, and to promote peace and unity of judgment; the other,
whose object it was to destroy everything that was good, used all his endeavors
to destroy the general harmony.
CHAPTER LII: Banishment of the Christians,
and Confiscation of their Property.
AND whereas Constantine, the friend
of God, had granted to His worshipers freedom of access to the imperial
palaces; this enemy of God, in a spirit the very reverse of this, expelled
thence all Christians subject to his authority. He banished those who had
proved themselves his most faithful and devoted servants, and compelled
others, on whom he had himself conferred honor and distinction as a reward
for their former eminent services, to the performance of menial offices
as slaves to others; and at length, being bent on seizing the property
of all as a windfall for himself, he even threatened with death those who
professed the Savior's name. Moreover being himself of a nature hopelessly
debased by sensuality, and degraded by the continual practice of adultery
and other shameless vices, he assumed his own worthless character as a
specimen of human nature generally, and denied that the virtue of chastity
and continence existed among men.
CHAPTER LIII: Edict that Women should
not meet with the Men in the Churches.
ACCORDINGLY he passed a second law,
which enjoined that men should not appear in company with women in the
houses of prayer, and forbade women to attend the sacred schools of virtue,
or to receive instruction from the bishops, directing the appointment of
women to be teachers of their own sex. These regulations being received
with general ridicule, he devised other, means for effecting the ruin of
the churches. He ordered that the usual congregations of the people should
be held in the open country outside the gates, alleging that the open air
without the city was far more suitable for a multitude than the houses
of prayer within the walls.
CHAPTER LIV: That those who refuse
to sacrifice are to be dismissed from Military Service, and those in Prison
not to be fed.
FAILING, however, to obtain obedience
in this respect also, at length he threw off the mask, and gave orders
that those who held military commissions in the several cities of the empire
should be deprived of their respective commands, in case of their refusal
to offer sacrifices to the demons. Accordingly the forces of the authorities
in every province suffered the loss of those who worshiped God; and he
too who had decreed this order suffered loss, in that he thus deprived
himself of the prayers of pious men. And why should I still further mention
how he directed that no one should obey the dictates of common humanity
by distributing food to those who were pining in prisons, or should even
pity the captives who perished with hunger; in short, that no one should
perform a virtuous action, and that those whose natural feelings impelled
them to sympathize with their fellow creatures should be prohibited from
doing them a single kindness? Truly this was the most utterly shameless
and scandalous of all laws, and one which surpassed the worst depravity
of human nature: a law which inflicted on those who showed mercy the same
penalties as on those who were the objects of their compassion, and visited
the exercise of mere humanity with the severest punishments.
CHAPTER LV: The Lawless Conduct and
Covetousness of Licinius.
Such were the ordinances of Licinius.
But why should I enumerate his innovations respecting marriage, or those
concerning the dying, whereby he presumed to abrogate the ancient and wisely
established laws of the Romans, and to introduce certain barbarous and
cruel institutions in their stead, inventing a thousand pretenses for oppressing
his subjects? Hence it was that he devised a new method of measuring land,
by which he reckoned the smallest portion at more than its actual dimensions,
from an insatiable desire of acquisition. Hence too he registered the names
of country residents who were now no more, and had long been numbered with
the dead, procuring to himself by this expedient a shameful gain. His meanness
was unlimited and his rapacity insatiable. So that when he had filled all
his treasuries with gold, and silver, and boundless wealth, he bitterly
bewailed his poverty, and suffered as it were the torments of Tantalus.
But why should I mention how many innocent persons he punished with exile;
how much property he confiscated; how many men of noble birth and estimable
character he imprisoned, whose wives he handed over to be basely insulted
by his profligate slaves, and to how many married women and virgins he
himself offered violence, though already feeling the infirmities of age?
I need not enlarge on these subjects, since the enormity of his last actions
causes the former to appear trifling and of little moment.
CHAPTER LVI: At length he undertakes
to raise a Persecution.
FOR the final efforts of his fury
appeared in his open hostility to the churches, and he directed his attacks
against the bishops themselves, whom he regarded as his worst adversaries,
bearing special enmity to those men whom the great and pious emperor treated
as his friends. Accordingly he spent on us the utmost of his fury, and,
being transported beyond the bounds of reason, he paused not to reflect
on the example of those who had persecuted the Christians before him, nor
of those whom he himself had been raised up to punish and destroy for their
impious deeds: nor did he heed the facts of which he had been himself a
witness, though he had seen with his own eyes the chief originator of these
our calamities (whoever he was), smitten by the stroke of the Divine scourge.
CHAPTER LVII: That Maximian, brought
Low by a Fistulous Ulcer with Worms, issued an Edict in Favor of the Christians.
FOR whereas this man had commenced
the attack on the churches, and had been the first to pollute his soul
with the blood of just and godly men, a judgment from God overtook him,
which at first affected his body, but eventually extended itself to his
soul. For suddenly an abscess appeared in the secret parts of his person,
followed by a deeply seated fistulous ulcer; and these diseases fastened
with incurable virulence on the intestines, which swarmed with a vast multitude
of worms, and emitted a pestilential odor. Besides, his entire person had
become loaded, through gluttonous excess, with an enormous quantity of
fat, and this, being now in a putrescent state, is said to have presented
to all who approached him an intolerable and dreadful spectacle. Having,
therefore, to struggle against such sufferings, at length, though late,
he came to a realization of his past crimes against the Church; and, confessing
his sins before God, he put a stop to the persecution of the Christians,
and hastened to issue imperial edicts and rescripts for the rebuilding
of their churches, at the same time enjoining them to perform their customary
worship, and to offer up prayers on his behalf.
CHAPTER LVIII: That Maximin, who
had persecuted the Christians, was compelled to fly, and conceal himself
in the Disguise of a Slave.
SUCH was the punishment which he
underwent who had commenced the persecution. He, however, of whom we are
now speaking, who had been a witness of these things, and known them by
his own actual experience, all at once banished the remembrance of them
from his mind, and reflected neither on the punishment of the first, nor
the divine judgment which had been executed on the second persecutor. The
latter had indeed endeavored to outstrip his predecessor in the career
of crime, and prided himself on the invention of new tortures for us. Fire
nor sword, nor piercing with nails, nor yet wild beasts or the depths of
the sea sufficed him. In addition to all these, he discovered a new mode
of punishment, and issued an edict directing that their eyesight should
be destroyed. So that numbers, not of men only, but of women and children,
after being deprived of the sight of their eyes, and the use of the joints
of their feet, by mutilation or cauterization, were consigned in this condition
to the painful labor of the mines. Hence it was that this tyrant also was
overtaken not long after by the righteous judgment of God, at a time when,
confiding in the aid of the demons whom he worshiped as gods, and relying
on the countless multitudes of his troops, he had ventured to engage in
battle. For, feeling himself on that occasion destitute of all hope in
God, he threw from him the imperial dress which so ill became him, hid
himself with unmanly timidity in the crowd around him, and sought safety
He afterwards lurked about the fields
and villages in the habit of a slave, hoping he should thus be effectually
concealed. He had not, however, eluded the mighty and all- searching eye
of God: for even while he was expecting to pass the residue of his days
in security, he fell prostrate, smitten by God's fiery dart, and his whole
body consumed by the stroke of Divine vengeance; so that all trace of the
original lineaments of his person was lost, and nothing remained to him
but dry bones and a skeleton- like appearance.
CHAPTER LIX: That Maximin, blinded
by Disease, issued an Edict in Favor of the Christians.
AND still the stroke of God continued
heavy upon him, so that his eyes protruded and fell from their sockets,
leaving him quite blind: and thus he suffered, by a most righteous retribution,
the very same punishment which he had been the first to devise for the
martyrs of God. At length, however, surviving even these sufferings, he
too implored pardon of the God of the Christians, and confessed his impious
fighting against God: he too recanted, as the former persecutor had done;
and by laws and ordinances explicitly acknowledged his error in worshiping
those whom he had accounted gods, declaring that he now knew, by positive
experience, that the God of the Christians was the only true God. These
were facts which Licinius had not merely received on the testimony of others,
but of which he had himself had personal knowledge: and yet, as though
his understanding had been obscured by some dark cloud of error, persisted
in the same evil course.
CHAPTER I: Secret Persecution by
Licinius, who causes Same Bishops to be put to Death at Amasia of Pontus.
In this manner, he of whom we have
spoken continued to rush headlong towards that destruction which awaits
the enemies of God; and once more, with a fatal emulation of their example
whose ruin he had himself witnessed as the consequence of their impious
conduct, he rekindled the persecution of the Christians, like a long- extinguished
fire, and fanned the unhallowed flame to a fiercer height than any who
had gone before him.
At first, indeed, though breathing
fury and threatenings against God, like some savage beast of prey, or some
crooked and wriggling serpent, he dared not, from fear of Constantine,
openly level his attacks against the churches of God subject to his dominion;
but dissembled the virulence of his malice, and endeavored by secret and
limited measures to compass the death of the bishops, the most eminent
of whom he found means to remove, through charges laid against them by
the governors of the several provinces. And the manner in which they suffered
had in it something strange, and hitherto unheard of. At all events, the
barbarities perpetrated at Amasia of Pontus surpassed every known excess
CHAPTER II: Demolition of Churches,
and Butchery of the Bishops.
For in that city some of the churches,
for the second time since the commencement of the persecutions, were leveled
with the ground, and others were closed by the governors of the several
districts, in order to prevent any who frequented them from assembling
together, or rendering due worship to God. For he by whose orders these
outrages were committed was too conscious of his own crimes to expect that
these services were performed with any view to his benefit, and was convinced
that all we did, and all our endeavors to obtain the favor of God, were
on Constantine's behalf. These servile governors then, feeling assured
that such a course would be pleasing to the impious tyrant, subjected the
most distinguished prelates of the churches to capital punishment. Accordingly,
men who had been guilty of no crime were led away, without cause punished
like murderers: and some suffered a new kind of death, having their bodies
cut piecemeal; and, after this cruel punishment, more horrible than any
named in tragedy, being cast, as a food to fishes, into the depths of the
sea. The result of these horrors was again, as before, the flight of pious
men, and once more the fields and deserts received the worshipers of God.
The tyrant, having thus far succeeded in his object, he farther determined
to raise a general persecution of the Christians: and he would have accomplished
his purpose, nor could anything have hindered him from carrying his resolution
into effect, had not he who defends his own anticipated the coming evil,
and by his special guidance conducted his servant Constantine to this part
of the empire, causing him to shine forth as a brilliant light in the midst
of the darkness and gloomy night.
CHAPTER III: How Constantine was
stirred in Behalf of the Christians thus in Danger of Persecution.
He perceiving the evils of which
he had heard to be no longer tolerable, took wise counsel, and tempering
the natural clemency of his character with a certain measure of severity,
hastened to succor those who were thus grievously oppressed. For he judged
that it would rightly be deemed a pious and holy task to secure, by the
removal of an individual, the safety of the greater part of the human race.
He judged too, that if he listened to the dictates of clemency only, and
bestowed his pity on one utterly unworthy of it, this would, on the one
hand, confer no real benefit on a man whom nothing would induce to abandon
his evil practices, and whose fury against his subjects would only be likely
to increase; while, on the other hand, those who suffered from his
oppression would thus be forever deprived of all hope of deliverance.
Influenced by these reflections,
the emperor resolved without farther delay to extend a protecting hand
to those who had fallen into such an extremity of distress. He accordingly
made the usual warlike preparations, and assembled his whole forces, both
of horse and foot. But before them all was carried the standard which I
have before described, as the symbol of his full confidence in God.
CHAPTER IV: That Constantine prepared
himself for the War by Prayer: Licinius by the Practice of Divination.
He took with him also the priests
of God, feeling well assured that now, if ever, he stood in need of the
efficacy of prayer, and thinking it right that they should constantly be
near and about his person, as most trusty guardians of the soul.
Now, as soon as the tyrant understood
that Constantine's victories over his enemies were secured to him by no
other means than the co-operation of God, and that the persons above alluded
to were continually with him and about his person; and besides this, that
the symbol of the salutary passion preceded both the emperor himself and
his whole army; he regarded these precautions with ridicule (as might be
expected), at the same time mocking and reviling the emperor with blasphemous
On the other hand, he gathered round
himself Egyptian diviners and soothsayers, with sorcerers and enchanters,
and the priests and prophets of those whom he imagined to be gods. He then,
after offering the sacrifices which he thought the occasion demanded, inquired
how far he might reckon on a successful termination of the war. They replied
with one voice, that he would unquestionably be victorious over his enemies,
and triumphant in the war: and the oracles everywhere held out to him the
same prospect in copious and elegant verses. The soothsayers certified
him of favorable omens from the flight of birds; the priests declared the
same to be indicated by the motion of the entrails of their victims. Elevated,
therefore, by these fallacious assurances, he boldly advanced at the head
of his army, and prepared for battle.
CHAPTER V: What Licinius, while sacrificing
in a Grove, said concerning Idols, and concerning Christ.
And when he was now ready to engage,
he desired the most approved of his body-guard and his most valued friends
to meet him in one of the places which they consider sacred. It was a well-watered
and shady grove, and in it were several marble statues of those whom he
accounted to be gods. After lighting tapers and performing the usual sacrifices
in honor of these, he is said to have delivered the following speech:
"Friends and fellow soldiers! These
are our country's gods, and these we honor with a worship derived from
our remotest ancestors. But he who leads the army now opposed to us has
proved false to the religion of his forefathers, and adopted atheistic
sentiments, honoring in his infatuation some strange and unheard-of Deity,
with whose despicable standard he now disgraces his army, and confiding
in whose aid he has taken up arms, and is now advancing, not so much against
us as against those very gods whom he has forsaken. However, the present
occasion shall prove which of us is mistaken in his judgment, and shall
decide between our gods and those whom our adversaries profess to honor.
For either it will declare the victory to be ours, and so most justly evince
that our gods are the true saviors and helpers; or else, if this God of
Constantine's, who comes we know not whence, shall prove superior to our
deities (who are many, and in point of numbers, at least, have the advantage),
let no one henceforth doubt which god he ought to worship, but attach himself
at once to the superior power, and ascribe to him the honors of the victory.
Suppose, then, this strange God, whom we now regard with ridicule, should
really prove victorious; then indeed we must acknowledge and give him honor,
and so bid a long farewell to those for whom we light our tapers in vain.
But if our own gods triumph (as they undoubtedly will), then, as soon as
we have secured the present victory, let us prosecute the war without delay
against these despisers of the gods."
Such were the words he addressed
to those then present, as reported not long after to the writer of this
history by some who heard them spoken. And as soon as he had concluded
his speech, he gave orders to his forces to commence the attack.
CHAPTER VI: An Apparition seen in
the Cities subject to Licinius, as of Constantine's Troops passing through
WHILE these things were taking place
a supernatural appearance is said to have been observed in the cities subject
to the tyrant's rule. Different detachments of Constantine's army seemed
to present themselves to the view, marching at noonday through these cities,
as though they had obtained the victory. In reality, not a single soldier
was anywhere present at the time, and yet this appearance was seen through
the agency of a divine and superior power, and foreshadowed what was shortly
coming to pass. For as soon as the armies were ready to engage, he who
had broken through the ties of friendly alliance was the first to commence
the battle; on which Constantine, calling on the name of "God the Supreme
Savior," and giving this as the watchword to his soldiers, overcame him
in this first conflict: and not long after in a second battle he gained
a still more important and decisive victory, the salutary trophy preceding
the ranks of his army.
CHAPTER VII: That Victory everywhere
followed the Presence of the Standard of the Cross in Battle.
Indeed, wherever this appeared, the
enemy soon fled before his victorious troops. And the emperor perceiving
this, whenever he saw any part of his forces hard pressed, gave orders
that the salutary trophy should be moved in that direction, like some triumphant
charm against disasters: at which the combatants were divinely inspired,
as it were, with fresh strength and courage, and immediate victory was
CHAPTER VIII: That Fifty Men were
selected to carry the Cross.
ACCORDINGLY, he selected those of
his bodyguard who were most distinguished for personal strength, valor,
and piety, and entrusted them with the sole care and defense of the standard.
There were thus no less than fifty men whose only duty was to surround
and vigilantly defend the standard, which they carried each in turn on
their shoulders. These circumstances were related to the writer of this
narrative by the emperor himself in his leisure moments, long after the
occurrence of the events: and he added another incident well worthy of
CHAPTER IX: That One of the Cross
bearers, who fled from his Post, was slain: while Another, who faithfully
stood his Ground, was preserved.
FOR he said that once, during the
very heat of an engagement, a sudden tumult and panic attacked his army,
which threw the soldier who then bore the standard into an agony of fear,
so that he handed it over to another, in order to secure his own escape
from the battle. As soon, however, as his comrade had received it, and
he had withdrawn, and resigned all charge of the standard, he was struck
in the belly by a dart, which took his life. Thus he paid the penalty of
his cowardice and unfaithfulness, and lay dead on the spot: but the other,
who had taken his place as the bearer of the salutary standard, found it
to be the safeguard of his life. For though he was assailed by a continual
shower of darts, the bearer remained unhurt, the staff of the standard
receiving every weapon. It was indeed a truly marvelous circumstance, that
the enemies' darts all fell within and remained in the slender circumference
of this spear, and thus saved the standard-bearer from death; so that none
of those engaged in this service ever received a wound.
This story is none of mine, but for
this, too, I am indebted to the emperor's own authority, who related it
in my hearing along with other matters. And now, having thus through the
power of God secured these first victories, he put his forces in motion
and continued his onward march.
CHAPTER X: Furious Battles, and Constantine's
The van, however, of the enemy, unable
to resist the emperor's first assault, threw down their arms, and prostrated
themselves at his feet. All these he spared, rejoicing to save human life.
But there were others who still continued in arms, and engaged in battle.
These the emperor endeavored to conciliate by friendly overtures, but when
these were not accepted he ordered his army to commence the attack. On
this they immediately turned and betook themselves to flight; and some
were overtaken and slain according to the laws of war, while others fell
on each other in the confusion of their flight, and perished by the swords
of their comrades.
CHAPTER XI: Flight, and Magic Arts
In these circumstances their commander,
finding himself bereft of the aid of his followers, having lost his lately
numerous array, both of regular and allied forces, having proved, too,
by experience, how vain his confidence had been in those whom he thought
to be gods, ignominiously took to flight, by which indeed he effected his
escape, and secured his personal safety, for the pious emperor had forbidden
his soldiers to follow him too closely, and thus allowed him an opportunity
for escape. And this he did in the hope that he might hereafter, on conviction
of the desperate state of his affairs, be induced to abandon his insane
and presumptuous ambition, and return to sounder reason. So Constantine,
in his excessive humanity, thought and was willing patiently to bear past
injuries, and extend his forgiveness to one who so ill deserved it; but
Licinius, far from renouncing his evil practices, still added crime to
crime, and ventured on more daring atrocities than ever. Nay, once more
tampering with the detestable arts of magic, he again was presumptuous:
so that it might well be said of him, as it was of the Egyptian tyrant
of old, that God had hardened his heart.
CHAPTER XII: How Constantine, after
praying in his Tabernacle, obtained the Victory.
But while Licinius, giving himself
up to these impieties, rushed blindly towards the gulf of destruction,
the emperor on the other hand, when he saw that he must meet his enemies
in a second battle, devoted the intervening time to his Savior. He pitched
the tabernacle of the cross outside and at a distance from his camp, and
there passed his time in a pure and holy manner, offering up prayers to
God; following thus the example of his ancient prophet, of whom the sacred
oracles testify, that he pitched the tabernacle without the camp. He was
attended only by a few, whose faith and pious devotion he highly esteemed.
And this custom he continued to observe whenever he meditated an engagement
with the enemy. For he was deliberate in his measures, the better to insure
safety, and desired in everything to be directed by divine counsel. And
making earnest supplications to God, he was always honored after a little
with a manifestation of his presence. And then, as if moved by a divine
impulse, he would rush from the tabernacle, and suddenly give orders to
his army to move at once without delay, and on the instant to draw their
swords. On this they would immediately commence the attack, fight vigorously,
so as with incredible celerity to secure the victory, and raise trophies
of victory over their enemies.
CHAPTER XIII: His Humane Treatment
Thus the emperor and his army had
long been accustomed to act, whenever there was a prospect of an engagement;
for his God was ever present to his thoughts, and he desired to do everything
according to his will, and conscientiously to avoid any wanton sacrifice
of human life. He was anxious thus for the preservation not only of his
own subjects, but even of his enemies. Accordingly he directed his victorious
troops to spare the lives of their prisoners, admonishing them, as human
beings, not to forget the claims of their common nature. And whenever he
saw the passions of his soldiery excited beyond control, he repressed their
fury by a largess of money, rewarding every man who saved the life of an
enemy with a certain weight of gold. And the emperor's own sagacity led
him to discover this inducement to spare human life, so that great numbers
even of the barbarians were thus saved, and owed their lives to the emperor's
CHAPTER XIV: A Farther Mention of
his Prayers in the Tabernacle.
Now these, and a thousand such acts
as these, were familiarly and habitually done by the emperor. And on the
present occasion he retired, as his custom was before battle, to the privacy
of his tabernacle, and there employed his time in prayer to God. Meanwhile
he strictly abstained from anything like ease, or luxurious living, and
disciplined himself by fasting and bodily mortification, imploring the
favor of God by supplication and prayer, that he might obtain his concurrence
and aid, and be ready to execute whatever he might be pleased to suggest
to his thoughts. In short, he exercised a vigilant care over all alike,
and interceded with God as much for the safety of his enemies as for that
of his own subjects.
CHAPTER XV: Treacherous Friendship,
and Idolatrous Practices of Licinius.
And inasmuch as he who had lately
fled before him now dissembled his real sentiments, and again petitioned
for a renewal of friendship and alliance, the emperor thought fit, on certain
conditions, to grant his request, in the hope that such a measure might
be expedient, and generally advantageous to the community. Licinius, however,
while he pretended a ready submission to the terms prescribed, and attested
his sincerity by oaths, at this very time was secretly engaged in collecting
a military force, and again meditated war and strife, inviting even the
barbarians to join his standard, and he began also to look about him for
other gods, having been deceived by those in whom he had hitherto trusted.
And, without bestowing a thought on what he had himself publicly spoken
on the subject of false deities, or choosing to acknowledge that God who
had fought on the side of Constantine, he made himself ridiculous by seeking
for a multitude of new gods.
CHAPTER XVI: How Licinius counseled
his Soldiers not to attack the Standard of the Cross.
Having now learned by experience
the Divine and mysterious power which resided in the salutary trophy, by
means of which Constantine's army had become habituated to victory, he
admonished his soldiers never to direct their attack against this standard,
nor even incautiously to allow their eyes to rest upon it; assuring them
that it possessed a terrible power, and was especially hostile to him;
so that they would do well carefully to avoid any collision with it. And
now, having given these directions, he prepared for a decisive conflict
with him whose humanity prompted him still to hesitate, and to postpone
the fate which he foresaw awaited his adversary. The enemy, however, confident
in the aid of a multitude of gods, advanced to the attack with a powerful
array of military force, preceded by certain images of the dead, and lifeless
statues, as their defense. On the other side, the emperor, secure in the
armor of godliness, opposed to the numbers of the enemy the salutary and
life-giving sign, as at once a terror to the foe, and a protection from
every harm. And for a while he paused, and preserved at first the attitude
of forbearance, from respect to the treaty of peace to which he had given
his sanction, that he might not be the first to commence the contest.
CHAPTER XVII: Constantine's Victory.
But as soon as he perceived that
his adversaries persisted in their resolution, and were already drawing
their swords, he gave free scope to his indignation, and by a single charge
overthrew in a moment the entire body of the enemy, thus triumphing at
once over them and their gods.
CHAPTER XVIII: Death of Licinius,
and Celebration of the Event.
He then proceeded to deal with this
adversary of God and his followers according to the laws of war, and consign
them to fitting punishment. Accordingly the tyrant himself, and they whose
counsels had supported him in his impiety, were together subjected to the
just punishment of death. After this, those who had so lately been deceived
by their vain confidence in false deities, acknowledged with unfeigned
sincerity the God of Constantine, and openly professed their belief in
him as the true and only God.
CHAPTER XIX: Rejoicings and Festivities.
And now, the impious being thus removed,
the sun once more shone brightly after the gloomy cloud of tyrannical power.
Each separate portion of the Roman dominion became blended with the rest;
the Eastern nations united with those of the West, and the whole body of
the Roman empire was graced as it were by its head in the person of a single
and supreme ruler, whose sole authority pervaded the whole. Now too the
bright rays of the light of godliness gladdened the days of those who had
heretofore been sitting in darkness and the shadow of death. Past sorrows
were no more remembered, for all united in celebrating the praises of the
victorious prince, and avowed their recognition of his preserver as the
only true God. Thus he whose character shone with all the virtues of piety,
the emperor Victor, for he had himself adopted this name as a most fitting
appellation to express the victory which God had granted him over all who
hated or opposed him, assumed the dominion of the East, and thus singly
governed the Roman empire, re-united, as in former times, under one head.
Thus, as he was the first to proclaim to all the sole sovereignty of God,
so he himself, as sole sovereign of the Roman world, extended his authority
over the whole human race. Every apprehension of those evils under the
pressure of which all had suffered was now removed; men whose heads had
drooped in sorrow now regarded each other with smiling countenances, and
looks expressive of their inward joy. With processions and hymns of praise
they first of all, as they were told, ascribed the supreme sovereignty
to God, as in truth the King of kings; and then with continued acclamations
rendered honor to the victorious emperor, and the Caesars, his most discreet
and pious sons. The former afflictions were forgotten, and all past impieties
forgiven: while with the enjoyment of present happiness was mingled the
expectation of continued blessings in the future.
CHAPTER XX: Constantine's Enactments
in Favor of the Confessors.
MOREOVER, the emperor's edicts, permeated
with his humane spirit, were published among us also, as they had been
among the inhabitants of the other division of the empire; and his laws,
which breathed a spirit of piety toward God, gave promise of manifold blessings,
since they secured many advantages to his provincial subjects in every
nation, and at the same time prescribed measures suited to the exigencies
of the churches of God. For first of all they recalled those who, in consequence
of their refusal to join in idol worship, had been driven to exile, or
ejected from their homes by the governors of their respective provinces.
In the next place, they relieved from their burdens those who for the same
reason had been adjudged to serve in the civil courts, and ordained restitution
to be made to any who had been deprived of property. They too, who in the
time of trial had signalized themselves by fortitude of soul in the cause
of God, and had therefore been condemned to the painful labor of the mines,
or consigned to the solitude of islands, or compelled to toil in the public
works, all received an immediate release from these burdens; while others,
whose religious constancy had cost them the forfeiture of their military
rank, were vindicated by the emperor's generosity from this dishonor: for
he granted them the alternative either of resuming their rank, and enjoying
their former privileges, or, in the event of their preferring a more settled
life, of perpetual exemption from all service. Lastly, all who had been
compelled by way of disgrace and insult to serve in the employments of
women, he likewise freed with the rest.
CHAPTER XXI: His Laws concerning
Martyrs, and concerning Ecclesiastical Property.
Such were the benefits secured by
the emperor's written mandates to the persons of those who had thus suffered
for the faith, d his laws made ample provision for their property also.
With regard to those holy martyrs
of God who had laid down their lives in the confession of His name, he
directed that their estates should be enjoyed by their nearest kindred;
and, in default of any of these, that the right of inheritance should be
vested in the churches. Farther, whatever property had been consigned to
other parties from the treasury, whether in the way of sale or gift, together
with that retained in the treasury itself, the generous mandate of the
emperor directed should be restored to the original owners. Such benefits
did his bounty, thus widely diffused, confer on the Church of God.
CHAPTER XXII: How he won the Favor
of the People.
But his munificence bestowed still
further and more numerous favors on the heathen peoples and the other nations
of his empire. So that the inhabitants of our [Eastern] regions, who had
heard of the privileges experienced in the opposite portion of the empire,
and had blessed the fortunate recipients of them, and longed for the enjoyment
of a similar lot for themselves, now with one consent proclaimed their
own happiness, when they saw themselves in possession of all these blessings;
and confessed that the appearance of such a monarch to the human race was
indeed a marvelous event, and such as the world's history had never yet
recorded. Such were their sentiments.
CHAPTER XXIII: That he declared God
to be the Author of his Prosperity: and concerning his Rescripts.
AND now that, through the powerful
aid of God his Savior, all nations owned their subjection to the emperor's
authority, he openly proclaimed to all the name of Him to whose bounty
he owed all his blessings, and declared that He, and not himself, was the
author of his past victories. This declaration, written both in the Latin
and Greek languages, he caused to be transmitted through every province
of the empire. Now the excellence of his style of expression may be known
from a perusal of his letters themselves which were two in number; one
addressed to the churches of God; the other to the heathen population in
the several cities of the empire. The latter of these I think it well to
insert here as connected with my present subject, in order on the one hand
that a copy of this document may be recorded as matter of history, and
thus preserved to posterity, and on the other that it may serve to confirm
the truth of my present narrative. It is taken from an authentic copy of
the imperial statute in my own possession and the signature in the emperor's
own handwriting attaches as it were the impress of truth to the statement
I have made.
CHAPTER XXIV: Law of Constantine
respecting Piety towards God, and the Christian Religion.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS
to the inhabitants of the province of Palestine.
"To all who entertain just and sound
sentiments respecting the character of the Supreme Being, it has long been
most clearly evident, and beyond the possibility of doubt, how vast a difference
there has ever been between those who maintain a careful observance of
the hallowed duties of the Christian religion, and those who treat this
religion with hostility or contempt. But at this present time, we may see
by stilt more manifest proofs, and still more decisive instances, both
how unreasonable it were to question this truth, and how mighty is the
power of the Supreme God: since it appears that they who faithfully observe
His holy laws, and shrink from the transgression of His commandments, are
rewarded with abundant blessings, and are endued with well- grounded hope
as well as ample power for the accomplishment of their undertakings. On
the other hand, they who have cherished impious sentiments have experienced
results corresponding to their evil choice. For how is it to be expected
that any blessing would be obtained by one who neither desired to acknowledge
nor duly to worship that God who is the source of all blessing? Indeed,
facts themselves are a confirmation of what I say.
CHAPTER XXV: An Illustration from
"FOR certainly any one who will mentally
retrace the course of events from the earliest period down to the present
time, and will reflect on what has occurred in past ages, will find that
all who have made justice and probity the basis of their conduct, have
not only carried their undertakings to a successful issue, but have gathered,
as it were, a store of sweet fruit as the produce of this pleasant root.
Again, whoever observes the career of those who have been bold in the practice
of oppression or injustice; who have either directed their senseless fury
against God himself, or have conceived no kindly feelings towards their
fellow-men, but have dared to afflict them with exile, disgrace, confiscation,
massacre, or other miseries of the like kind, and all this without any
sense of compunction, or wish to direct thoughts to a better course, will
find that such men have received a recompense proportioned to their crimes.
And these are results which might naturally and reasonably be expected
CHAPTER XXVI: Of Persecuted and Persecutors.
"For whoever have addressed themselves
with integrity of purpose to any course of action, keeping the fear of
God continually before their thoughts, and preserving an unwavering faith
in him, without allowing present fears or dangers to outweigh their hope
of future blessings such persons, though for a season they may have experienced
painful trials, have borne their afflictions lightly, being supported by
the belief of greater rewards in store for them; and their character has
acquired a brighter luster in proportion to the severity of their past
suffrages. With regard, on the other hand, to those who have either dishonorably
slighted the principles of justice, or refused to acknowledge the Supreme
God themselves, and yet have dared to subject others who have faithfully
maintained his worship to the most cruel insults and punishments; who have
failed equally to recognize their own wretchedness in oppressing others
on such grounds, and the happiness and blessing of those who preserved
their devotion to God even in the midst of such sufferings: with regard,
I say, to such men, many a time have their armies been slaughtered, many
a time have they been put to flight; and their warlike preparations have
ended in total ruin and defeat.
CHAPTER XXVII: How the Persecution
became the Occasion of Calamities to the Aggressors.
"From the causes I have described,
grievous wars arose, and destructive devastations. Hence followed a scarcity
of the common necessaries of life, and a crowd of consequent miseries:
hence, too, the authors of these impieties have either met a disastrous
death of extreme suffering, or have dragged out an ignominious existence,
and confessed it to be worse than death itself, thus receiving as it were
a measure of punishment proportioned to the heinousness of their crimes.
For each experienced a degree of calamity according to the blind fury with
which he had been led to combat, and as he thought, defeat the Divine will:
so that they not only felt the pressure of the ills of this present life,
but were tormented also by a most lively apprehension of punishment in
the future world.
CHAPTER XXVIII: That God chose Constantine
to be the Minister of Blessing.
"AND now, with such a mass of impiety
oppressing the human race, and the commonwealth in danger of being utterly
destroyed, as if by the agency of some pestilential disease, and therefore
needing powerful and effectual aid; what was the relief, and what the remedy
which the Divinity devised for these evils? (And by Divinity is meant the
one who is alone and truly God, the possessor of almighty and eternal power:
and surely it cannot be deemed arrogance in one who has received benefits
from God, to acknowledge them in the loftiest terms of praise.) I myself,
then, was the instrument whose services He chose, and esteemed suited for
the accomplishment of his will. Accordingly, beginning at the remote Britannic
ocean, and the regions where, according to the law of nature, the sun sinks
beneath the horizon, through the aid of divine power I banished and utterly
removed every form of evil which prevailed, in the hope that the human
race, enlightened through my instrumentality, might be recalled to a due
observance of the holy laws of God, and at the same time our most blessed
faith might prosper under the guidance of his almighty hand.
CHAPTER XXIX: Constantine's Expressions
of Piety towards God; and Praise of the Confessors.
"I said, under the guidance of his
hand; for I would desire never to be forgetful of the gratitude due to
his grace. Believing, therefore, that this most excellent service had been
confided to me as a special gift, I proceeded as far as the regions of
the East, which, being under the pressure of severer calamities, seemed
to demand still more effectual remedies at my hands. At the same time I
am most certainly persuaded that I myself owe my life, my every breath,
in short, my very inmost and secret thoughts, entirely to the favor of
the Supreme God. Now I am well aware that they who are sincere in the pursuit
of the heavenly hope, and have fixed this hope in heaven itself as the
peculiar and predominant principle of their lives, have no need to depend
on human favor, but rather have enjoyed higher honors in proportion as
they have separated themselves from the inferior and evil things of this
earthly existence. Nevertheless I deem it incumbent on me to remove at
once and most completely from all such persons the hard necessities laid
upon them for a season, and the unjust inflictions under which they have
suffered, though free from any guilt or just liability. For it would be
strange indeed, that the fortitude and constancy of soul displayed by such
men should be fully apparent during the reign of those whose first object
it was to persecute them on account of their devotion to God, and yet that
the glory of their character should not be more bright and blessed, under
the administration of a prince who is His servant.
CHAPTER XXX: A Law granting Release
from Exile, from Service in the Courts, and from the Confiscation of Property.
"LET all therefore who have exchanged
their country for a foreign land, because they would not abandon that reverence
and faith toward God to which they had devoted themselves with their whole
hearts, and have in consequence at different times been subject to the
cruel sentence of the courts; together with any who have been enrolled
in the registers of the public courts though in time past exempt from such
office let these, I say, now render thanks to God the Liberator of all,
in that they are restored to their hereditary property, and their wonted
tranquility. Let those also who have been despoiled of their goods, and
have hitherto passed a wretched existence, mourning under the loss of all
that they possessed, once more be restored to their former homes, their
families, and estates, and receive with joy the bountiful kindness of God.
CHAPTER XXXI: Release likewise granted
to Exiles in the Islands.
"FURTHERMORE, it is our command that
all those who have been detained in the islands against their will should
receive the benefit of this present provision; in order that they who rill
now have been surrounded by rugged mountains and the encircling barrier
of the ocean, being now set free from that gloomy and desolate solitude,
may fulfill their fondest wish by revisiting their dearest friends. Those,
too, who have prolonged a miserable life in the midst of abject and wretched
squalor, welcoming their restoration as an unlooked-for gain, and discarding
henceforth all anxious thoughts, may pass their lives with us in freedom
from all fear. For that any one could live in a state of fear under our
government, when we boast and believe ourselves to be the servants of God,
would surely be a thing most extraordinary even to hear of, and quite incredible;
and our mission is to rectify the errors of the others.
CHAPTER XXXII: And to those ignominiously
employed in the Mines and Public Works.
"AGAIN, with regard to those who
have been condemned either to the grievous labor of the mines, or to service
in the public works, let them enjoy the sweets of leisure in place of these
long continued toils, and henceforth lead a far easier life, and more accordant
with the wishes of their hearts, exchanging the incessant hardships of
their tasks for quiet relaxation. And if any have forfeited the common
privilege of liberty, or have unhappily suffered dishonor, let them
hasten back every one to the country of his nativity, and resume with becoming
joy their former positions in society, from which they have been as it
were separated by long residence abroad.
CHAPTER XXXIII: Concerning those
Confessors engaged in Military Service.
"ONCE more, with respect to those
who had previously been preferred to any military distinction, of which
they were afterwards deprived, for the cruel and unjust reason that they
chose rather to acknowledge their allegiance to God than to retain the
rank they held; we leave them perfect liberty of choice, either to occupy
their former stations, should they be content again to engage in military
service, or after an honorable discharge, to live in undisturbed tranquillity.
For it is fair and consistent that men who have displayed such magnanimity
and fortitude in meeting the perils to which they have been exposed, should
be allowed the choice either of enjoying peaceful leisure, or resuming
their former rank.
CHAPTER XXXIV: The Liberation of
Free Persons condemned to labor in the Women's Apartments, or to Servitude.
"LASTLY, if any have wrongfully been
deprived of the privileges of noble lineage, and subjected to a judicial
sentence which has consigned them to the women's apartments and to the
linen making, there to undergo a cruel and miserable labor, or reduced
them to servitude for the benefit of the public treasury, without any exemption
on the ground of superior birth; let such persons, resuming the honors
they had previously enjoyed, and their proper dignities, henceforward exult
in the blessings of liberty, and lead a glad life. Let the free man, too,
by some injustice and inhumanity, or even madness, made a slave, who has
felt the sudden transition from liberty to bondage, and ofttimes bewailed
his unwonted labors, return to his family once more a free man in virtue
of this our ordinance, and seek those employments which befit a state of
freedom; and let him dismiss from his remembrance those services which
he found so oppressive, and which so ill became his condition.
CHAPTER XXXV: Of the Inheritance
of the Property of Martyrs and Confessors, also of those who had suffered
Banishment or Confiscation of Property.
" Nor must we omit to notice those
estates of which individuals have been deprived on various pretenses. For
if any of those who have engaged with dauntless and resolute determination
in the noble and divine conflict of martyrdom have also been stripped of
their fortunes; or if the same has been the lot of the confessors, who
have won for themselves the hope of eternal treasures; or if the loss of
property has befallen those who were driven from their native land because
they would not yield to the persecutors, and betray their faith; lastly,
if any who have escaped the sentence of death have yet been despoiled of
their worldly goods; we ordain that the inheritances of all such persons
be transferred to their nearest kindred. And whereas the laws expressly
assign this right to those most nearly related, it will be easy to ascertain
to whom these inheritances severally belong. And it is evidently reasonable
that the succession in these cases should belong to those who would have
stood in the place of nearest affinity, had the deceased experienced a
CHAPTER XXXVI: The Church is declared
Heir of those who leave no Kindred; and the Free Gifts of such Persons
"But should there be no surviving
relation to succeed in due course to the property of those above mentioned,
I mean the martyrs, or confessors, or those who for some such cause have
been banished from their native land; in such cases we ordain that the
church locally nearest in each instance shall succeed to the inheritance.
And surely it will be no wrong to the departed that that church should
be their heir, for whose sake they have endured every extremity of suffering.
We think it necessary to add this also, that in case any of the above mentioned
persons have donated any part of their property in the way of free gift,
possession of such property shall be assured, as is reasonable, to those
who have thus received it.
CHAPTER XXXVII: Lands, Gardens, or
Houses, but not Actual Produce from them, are to be given back.
"AND that there may be no obscurity
in this our ordinance, but every one may readily apprehend its requirements,
let all men hereby know that if they are now maintaining themselves in
possession of a piece of land, or a house, or garden, or anything else
which had appertained to the before- mentioned persons, it will be good
and advantageous for them to acknowledge the fact, and make restitution
with the least possible delay. On the other hand, although it should appear
that some individuals have reaped abundant profits from this unjust possession,
we do not consider that justice demands the restitution of such profits.
They must, however, declare explicitly what amount of benefit they have
thus derived, and from what sources, and entreat our pardon for this offense;
in order that their past covetousness may in some measure be atoned for,
and that the Supreme God may accept this compensation as a token of contrition,
and be pleased graciously to pardon the sin.
CHAPTER XXXVIII: In what Manner Requests
should be made for these.
"BUT it is possible that those who
have become masters of such property (if it be right or possible to allow
them such a title) will assure us by way of apology for their conduct,
that it was not in their power to abstain from this appropriation at a
time when a spectacle of misery in all its forms everywhere met the view;
when men were cruelly driven from their homes, slaughtered without mercy,
thrust forth without remorse: when the confiscation of the property of
innocent persons was a common thing, and when persecutions and property
seizures were unceasing. If any defend their conduct by such reasons as
these, and still persist in their avaricious temper, they shall be made
sensible that such a course will bring punishment on themselves, and all
the more because this correction of evil is the very characteristic of
our service to the Supreme God. So that it will henceforth be dangerous
to retain what dire necessity may in time past have compelled men to take;
especially because it is in any case incumbent on us to discourage covetous
desires, both by persuasion, and by warning examples.
CHAPTER XXXIX: The Treasury must
restore Lands, Gardens, and Houses to the Churches.
"Nor shall the treasury itself, should
it have any of the things we have spoken of, be permitted to keep them;
but, without venturing as it were to raise its voice against the holy churches,
it shall justly relinquish in their favor what it has for a time unjustly
retained. We ordain, therefore, that all things whatsoever which shall
appear righteously to belong to the churches, whether the property consist
of houses or fields and gardens, or whatever the nature of it may be, shall
be restored in their full value and integrity, and with undiminished right
The Tombs of Martyrs and the Cemeteries
to be transferred to the Possession of the Churches.
"Again, with respect to those places
which are honored in being the depositories of the remains of martyrs,
and continue to be memorials of their glorious departure; how can we doubt
that they rightly belong to the churches, or refrain from issuing our injunction
to that effect? For surely there can be no better liberality, no labor
more pleasing or profitable, than to be thus employed under the guidance
of the Divine Spirit, in order that those things which have been appropriated
on false pretenses by unjust and wicked men, may be restored, as justice
demands, and once more secured to the holy churches.
CHAPTER XLI: Those who have purchased
Property belonging to the Church, or received it as a Gift, are to restore
"AND since it would be wrong in a
provision intended to include all cases, to pass over those who have either
procured any such property by right of purchase from the treasury, or have
retained it when conveyed to them in the form of a gift; let all who have
thus rashly indulged their insatiable thirst of gain be assured that, although
by daring to make such purchases they have done all in their power to alienate
our clemency from themselves, they shall nevertheless not fail of obtaining
it, so far as is possible and consistent with propriety in each case. So
much then is determined.
CHAPTER XLII: An Earnest Exhortation
to worship God.
"AND now, since it appears by the
clearest and most convincing evidence, that the miseries which erewhile
oppressed the entire human race are now banished from every part of the
world, through the power of Almighty God, and at the same time the counsel
and aid which he is pleased on many occasions to administer through our
agency; it remains for all, both individually and unitedly, to observe
and seriously consider how great this power and how efficacious this grace
are, which have annihilated and utterly destroyed this generation, as I
may call them, of most wicked and evil men; have restored joy to the good,
and diffused it over all countries; and now guarantee the fullest authority
both to honor the Divine law as it should be honored, with all reverence,
and pay due observance to those who have dedicated themselves to the service
of that law. These rising as from some dark abyss and, with an enlightened
knowledge of the present course of events, will henceforward render to
its precepts that becoming reverence and honor which are consistent with
their pious character.
Let this ordinance be published in
our Eastern provinces."
CHAPTER XLIII: How the Enactments
of Constantine were carried into Effect.
Such were the injunctions contained
in the first letter which the emperor addressed to us. And the provisions
of this enactment were speedily carried into effect, everything being conducted
in a manner quite different from the atrocities which had but lately been
daringly perpetrated during the cruel ascendancy of the tyrants. Those
persons also who were legally entitled to it, received the benefit of the
CHAPTER XLIV: That he promoted Christians
to Offices of Government, and forbade Gentiles in Such Stations to offer
After this the emperor continued
to address himself to matters of high importance, and first he sent governors
to the several provinces, mostly such as were devoted to the saving faith;
and if any appeared inclined to adhere to Gentile worship, he forbade them
to offer sacrifice. This law applied also to those who surpassed the provincial
governors in rank and dignity, and even to those who occupied the highest
station, and held the authority of the Praetorian Prefecture. If they were
Christians, they were free to act consistently with their profession; if
otherwise, the law required them to abstain from idolatrous sacrifices.
CHAPTER XLV: Statutes which forbade
Sacrifice, and enjoined the Building of Churches.
Soon after this, two laws were promulgated
about the same time; one of which was intended to restrain the idolatrous
abominations which in time past had been practiced in every city and country;
and it provided that no one should erect images, or practice divination
and other false and foolish arts, or offer sacrifice in any way. The other
statute commanded the heightening of the oratories, and the enlargement
in length and breadth of the churches of God; as though it were expected
that, now the madness of polytheism was wholly removed, pretty nearly all
mankind would henceforth attach themselves to the service of God. His own
personal piety induced the emperor to devise and write these instructions
to the governors of the several provinces: and the law farther admonished
them not to spare the expenditure of money, but to draw supplies from the
imperial treasury itself. Similar instructions were written also to the
bishops of the several churches; and the emperor was pleased to transmit
the same to myself, being the first letter which he personally addressed
CHAPTER XLVI: Constantine's Letter
to Eusebius and Other Bishops, respecting the Building of Churches, with
Instructions to repair the Old, and erect New Ones on a Larger Scale, with
the Aid of the Provincial Governors.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
"Forasmuch as the unholy and willful
rule of tyranny has persecuted the servants of our Savior until this present
time, I believe and have fully satisfied myself, best beloved brother,
that the buildings belonging to all the churches have either become ruinous
through actual neglect, or have received inadequate attention from the
dread of the violent spirit of the times.
"But now, that liberty is restored,
and that serpent driven from the administration of public affairs by the
providence of the Supreme God, and our instrumentality, we trust that all
can see the efficacy of the Divine power, and that they who through fear
of persecution or through unbelief have fallen into any errors, will now
acknowledge the true God, and adopt in future that course of life which
is according to truth and rectitude. With respect, therefore, to the churches
over which you yourself preside, as well as the bishops, presbyters, and
deacons of other churches with whom you are acquainted, do you admonish
all to be zealous in their attention to the buildings of the churches,
and either to repair or enlarge those which at present exist, or, in cases
of necessity, to erect new ones.
"We also empower you, and the others
through you, to demand what is needful for the work, both from the provincial
governors and from the Praetorian Prefect. For they have received instructions
to be most diligent in obedience to your Holiness's orders. God preserve
you, beloved brother." A copy of this charge was transmitted throughout
all the provinces to the bishops of the several churches: the provincial
governors received directions accordingly, and the imperial statute was
speedily carried into effect.
CHAPTER XLVII: That he wrote a Letter
in Condemnation of Idolatry.
MOREOVER, the emperor, who continually
made progress in piety towards God, dispatched an admonitory letter to
the inhabitants of every province, respecting the error of idolatry into
which his predecessors in power bad fallen, in which he eloquently exhorts
his subjects to acknowledge the Supreme God, and openly to profess their
allegiance to his Christ as their Savior. This letter also, which is in
his own handwriting, I have judged it necessary to translate from the Latin
for the present work, in order that we may hear, as it were, the voice
the emperor himself uttering these sentiments in the audience of all mankind.
CHAPTER XLVIII: Constantine's Edict
to the People of the Provinces concerning the Error of Polytheism, commencing
with Some General Remarks on Virtue and Vice.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to the people of the Eastern provinces.
"Whatever is comprehended under the
sovereign laws of nature, seems to convey to all men an adequate idea of
the forethought and intelligence of the divine order. Nor can any, whose
minds are directed in the true path of knowledge to the attainment of that
end, entertain a doubt that the just perceptions of sound l reason, as
well as those of the natural vision itself, through the sole influence
of genuine virtue, lead to the knowledge of God. Accordingly no wise man
will ever be surprised when he sees the mass of mankind influenced by opposite
sentiments. For the beauty of virtue would be useless and unperceived,
did not vice display in contrast with it the course of perversity and folly.
Hence it is that the one is crowned with reward, while the most high God
is himself the administrator of judgment to the other.
"And now I will endeavor to lay before
you all as explicitly as possible, the nature of my own hopes of future
CHAPTER XLIX: Concerning Constantine's
Pious Father, and the Persecutors Diocletian and Maximian.
"The former emperors I have been
accustomed to regard as those with whom I could have no sympathy, on account
of the savage cruelty of their character. Indeed, my father was the only
one who uniformly practiced the duties of humanity, and with admirable
piety called for the blessing of God the Father on all his actions, but
the rest, unsound in mind, were more zealous of cruel than gentle measures;
and this disposition they indulged without restraint, and thus persecuted
the true doctrine during the whole period of their reign. Nay, so violent
did their malicious fury become, that in the midst of a profound peace,
as regards both the religious and ordinary interests of men, they kindled,
as it were, the flames of a civil war.
CHAPTER L: That the Persecution originated
an Account of the Oracle of Apollo, who, it was said, could not give Oracles
because of "the Righteous Men."
"About that time it is said that
Apollo spoke from a deep and gloomy cavern, and through the medium of no
human voice, and declared that the righteous men on earth were a bar to
his speaking the truth, and accordingly that the oracles from the tripod
were fallacious. Hence it was that he suffered his tresses to droop in
token of grief, and mourned the evils which the loss of the oracular spirit
would entail on mankind. But let us mark the consequences of this.
CHAPTER LI: That Constantine, when
a Youth, heard from him who wrote the Persecution Edict that "the Righteous
Men" were the Christians.
"I call now on thee, most high God,
to witness that, when young, I heard him who at that time was chief among
the Roman emperors, unhappy, truly unhappy as he was, and laboring under
mental delusion, make earnest inquiry of his attendants as to who these
righteous ones on earth were, and that one of the Pagan priests then present
replied that they were doubtless the Christians. This answer he eagerly
received, like some honeyed draught, and unsheathed the sword which was
ordained for the punishment of crime, against those whose holiness was
beyond reproach. Immediately, therefore, he issued those sanguinary edicts,
traced, if I may so express myself, with a sword's point dipped in blood;
at the same time commanding his judges to tax their ingenuity for the invention
of new and more terrible punishments.
CHAPTER LII: The Manifold Forms of
Torture and Punishment practiced against the Christians.
"Then, indeed, one might see with
what arrogance those venerable worshipers of God were daily exposed, with
continued and relentless cruelty, to outrages of the most grievous kind,
and how that modesty of character which no enemy had ever treated
with disrespect, became the mere sport of their infuriated fellow-citizens.
Is there any punishment by fire, are there any tortures or forms of torment,
which were not applied to all, without distinction of age or sex? Then,
it may be truly said, the earth shed tears, the all encircling compass
of heaven mourned because of the pollution of blood; and the very light
of day itself was darkened in grief at the spectacle.
CHAPTER LIII: That the Barbarians
kindly received the Christians.
"But what is the consequence of this?
Why, the barbarians themselves may boast now of the contrast their conduct
presents to these creel deeds; for they received and kept in gentlest captivity
those who then fled from amongst us, and secured to them not merely safety
from danger, but also the free exercise of their holy religion. And now
the Roman people bear that lasting stain which the Christians, at that
time driven from the Roman world, and taking refuge with the barbarians,
have branded on them.
CHAPTER LIV: What Vengeance overtook
those who on Account of the Oracle raised the Persecution.
"But why need I longer dwell on these
lamentable events, and the general sorrow which in consequence pervaded
the world? The perpetrators of this dreadful guilt are now no more: they
have experienced a miserable end, and are consigned to unceasing punishment
in the depths of the lower world. They encountered each other in civil
strife, and have left neither name nor race behind. And surely this calamity
would never have befallen them, had not that impious deliverance of the
Pythian oracle exercised a delusive power over them.
CHAPTER LV: Constantine gives Glory
to God, makes Grateful Acknowledgment of the Sign of the Cross, and prays
for the Churches and People.
"AND now I beseech thee, most mighty
God, to be merciful and gracious to thine Eastern nations, to thy people
in these provinces, worn as they are by protracted miseries; and grant
them healing through thy servant. Not without cause, O holy God, do I prefer
this prayer to thee, the Lord of all. Under thy guidance have I devised
and accomplished measures fraught with blessings: preceded by thy sacred
sign I have led thy armies to victory: and still, on each occasion of public
danger, I follow the same symbol of thy perfections while advancing to
meet the foe. Therefore have I dedicated to thy service a soul duly attempered
by love and fear. For thy name I truly love, while I regard with reverence
that power of which thou hast given abundant proofs, to the confirmation
and increase of my faith. I hasten, then, to devote all my powers to the
restoration of thy most holy dwelling place, which those profane and impious
men have defiled by the contamination of violence.
CHAPTER LVI: He prays that All may
be Christians, but compels None.
"MY own desire is, for the common
good of the world and the advantage of all mankind, that thy people should
enjoy a life of peace and undisturbed concord. Let those, therefore, who
still delight in error, be made welcome to the same degree of peace and
tranquillity which they have who believe. For it may be that this restoration
of equal privileges to all will prevail to lead them into the straight
path. Let no one molest another, but let every one do as his soul desires.
Only let men of sound judgment be assured of this, that those only can
live a life of holiness and purity, whom thou callest to a reliance on
thy holy laws. With regard to those who will hold themselves aloof from
us, let them have, if they please, their temples of lies: we have the glorious
edifice of thy truth, which thou hast given us as our native home.
We pray, however, that they too may receive the same blessing, and thus
experience that heartfelt joy which unity of sentiment inspires.
CHAPTER LVII: He gives Glory to God,
who has given Light by his Son to those who were in Error.
"And truly our worship is no new
or recent thing, but one which thou hast ordained for thine own due honor,
from the time when, as we believe, this system of the universe was first
established. And, although mankind have deeply fallen, and have been seduced
by manifold errors, yet hast thou revealed a pure light in the person of
thy Son, that the power of evil should not utterly prevail, and hast thus
given testimony to all men concerning thyself.
CHAPTER LVIII: He glorifies him again
for his Government of the Universe.
"THE truth of this is assured to
us by thy works. It is thy power which removes our guilt, and makes us
faithful. The sun and the moon have their settled course. The stars move
in no uncertain orbits round this terrestrial globe. The revolution of
the seasons recurs according to unerring laws. The solid fabric of the
earth was established by thy word: the winds receive their impulse at appointed
times; and the course of the waters continues with ceaseless flow, the
ocean is circumscribed by an immovable barrier, and whatever is comprehended
within the compass of earth and sea, is all contrived for wondrous and
"Were it not so, were not all regulated
by the determination of thy will, so great a diversity, so manifold a division
of power, would unquestionably have brought ruin on the whole race and
its affairs. For those agencies which have maintained a mutual strife
would thus have carried to a more deadly length that hostility against
the human race which they even now exercise, though unseen by mortal eyes.
CHAPTER LIX: He gives Glory to God,
as the Constant Teacher of Good.
"ABUNDANT thanks, most mighty God,
and Lord of all, be rendered to thee, that, by so much as our nature becomes
known from the diversified pursuits of man, by so much the more are the
precepts of thy divine doctrine confirmed to those whose thoughts are directed
aright, and who are sincerely devoted to true virtue. As for those who
will not allow themselves to be cured of their error, let them not attribute
this to any but themselves. For that remedy which is of sovereign and healing
virtue is openly placed within the reach of all. Only let not any one inflict
an injury on that religion which experience itself testifies to be pure
and undefiled. Henceforward, therefore, let us all enjoy in common the
privilege placed within our reach, I mean the blessing of peace, endeavoring
to keep our conscience pure from all that is contrary.
CHAPTER LX: An Admonition at the
Close of the Edict, that No One should trouble his Neighbor.
"ONCE more, let none use that to
the detriment of another which he may himself have received on conviction
of its truth; but let every, one, if it be possible, apply what he has
understood and known to the benefit of his neighbor; if otherwise, let
him relinquish the attempt. For it is one thing voluntarily to undertake
the conflict for immortality, another to compel others to do so from the
fear of punishment.
"These are our words; and we have
enlarged on these topics more than our ordinary clemency would have dictated,
because we were unwilling to dissemble or be false to the true faith; and
the more so, since we understand there are some who say that the rites
of the heathen temples, and the power of darkness, have been entirely removed.
We should indeed have earnestly recommended such removal to all men, were
it not that the rebellious spirit of those wicked errors still continues
obstinately fixed in the minds of some, so as to discourage the hope of
any general restoration of mankind to the ways of truth."
CHAPTER LXI: How Controversies originated
at Alexandria through Matters relating to Arius.
In this manner the emperor, like
a powerful herald of God, addressed himself by his own letter to all the
provinces, at the same time warning his subjects against superstitious
error, and encouraging them in the pursuit of true godliness. But in the
midst of his joyful anticipations of the success of this measure, he received
tidings of a most serious disturbance which had invaded the peace of the
Church. This intelligence he heard with deep concern, and at once endeavored
to devise a remedy for the evil. The origin of this disturbance may be
thus described. The people of God were in a truly flourishing state, and
abounding in the practice of good works. No terror from without assailed
them, but a bright and most profound peace, through the favor of God, encompassed
his Church on every side. Meantime, however, the spirit of envy was watching
to destroy our blessings, which at first crept in unperceived, but soon
reveled in the midst of the assemblies of the saints. At length it reached
the bishops themselves, and arrayed them in angry hostility against each
other, on pretense of a jealous regard for the doctrines of Divine truth.
Hence it was that a mighty fire was kindled as it were from a little spark,
and which, originating in the first instance in the Alexandrian church,
overspread the whole of Egypt and Libya, and the further Thebaid. Eventually
it extended its ravages to the other provinces and cities of the empire;
so that not only the prelates of the churches might be seen encountering
each other in the strife of words, but the people themselves were completely
divided, some adhering to one faction and others to another. Nay, so notorious
did the scandal of these proceedings become, that the sacred matters of
inspired teaching were exposed to the most shameful ridicule in the very
theaters of the unbelievers.
CHAPTER LXII: Concerning the Same
Arius, and the Melitians.
Some thus at Alexandria maintained
an obstinate conflict on the highest questions. Others throughout Egypt
and the Upper Thebaid, were at variance on account of an earlier controversy:
so that the churches were everywhere distracted by divisions. The body
therefore being thus diseased, the whole of Libya caught the contagion;
and the rest of the remoter provinces became affected with the same disorder.
For the disputants at Alexandria sent emissaries to the bishops of the
several provinces, who accordingly ranged themselves as partisans on either
side, and shared in the same spirit of discord.
CHAPTER LXIII: How Constantine sent
a Messenger and a Letter concerning Peace.
As soon as the emperor was informed
of these facts, which he heard with much sorrow of heart, considering them
in the light of a calamity personally affecting himself, he forthwith selected
from the Christians in his train one whom he well knew to be approved for
the sobriety and genuineness of his faith, and who had before this time
distinguished himself by the boldness. of his religious profession, and
sent him to negotiate peace between the dissenting parties at Alexandria.
He also made him the bearer of a most needful and appropriate letter to
the original movers of the strife: and this letter, as exhibiting a specimen
of his watchful care over God's people, it may be well to introduce into
this our narrative of his life. Its purport was as follows.
CHAPTER LXIV: Constantine's Letter
to Alexander the Bishop, and Arius the Presbyter.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to Alexander and Arius.
"I call that God to witness, as well
I may, who is the helper of my endeavors, and the Preserver of all men,
that I had a twofold reason for undertaking that duty which I have now
CHAPTER LXV: His Continual Anxiety
"MY design then was, first, to bring
the diverse judgments formed by all nations respecting the Deity to a condition,
as it were, of settled uniformity; and, secondly, to restore to health
the system of the world, then suffering under the malignant power of a
grievous distemper. Keeping these objects in view, I sought to accomplish
the one by the secret eye of thought, while the other I tried to rectify
by the power of military authority. For I was aware that, if I should succeed
in establishing, according to my hopes, a common harmony of sentiment among
all the servants of God, the general course of affairs would also experience
a change correspondent to the pious desires of them all.
CHAPTER LXVI: That he also adjusted
the Controversies which had arisen in Africa.
"Finding, then, that the whole of
Africa was pervaded by an intolerable spirit of mad folly, through the
influence of those who with heedless frivolity had presumed to rend the
religion of the people into diverse sects; I was anxious to check this
disorder, and could discover no other remedy equal to the occasion, except
in sending some of yourselves to aid in restoring mutual harmony among
the disputants, after I had removed that common enemy of mankind
who had interposed his lawless sentence for the prohibition of your holy
CHAPTER LXVII: That Religion began
in the East.
"For since the power of Divine light,
and the law of sacred worship, which, proceeding in the first instance,
through the favor of God, from the bosom, as it were, of the East, have
illumined the world, by their sacred radiance, I naturally believed that
you would be the first to promote the salvation of other nations, and resolved
with all energy of thought and diligence of inquiry to seek your aid. As
soon, therefore, as I had secured my decisive victory and unquestionable
triumph over my enemies, my first inquiry was concerning that object which
I felt to be of paramount interest and importance.
CHAPTER LXVIII: Being grieved by
the Dissension, he counsels Peace.
"BUT, O glorious Providence of God!
how deep a wound did not my ears only, but my very heart receive in the
report that divisions existed among yourselves more grievous still than
those which continued in that country! so that you, through whose aid I
had hoped to procure a remedy for the errors of others, are in a state
which needs healing even more than theirs. And yet, having made a careful
inquiry into the origin and foundation of these differences, I find the
cause to be of a truly insignificant character, and quite unworthy of such
fierce contention. Feeling myself, therefore, compelled to address you
in this letter, and to appeal at the same time to your unanimity and sagacity,
I call on Divine Providence to assist me in the task, while I interrupt
your dissension in the character of a minister of peace. And with reason:
for if I might expect, with the help of a higher Power, to be able without
difficulty, by a judicious appeal to the pious feelings of those who heard
me, to recall them to a better spirit, even though the occasion of the
disagreement were a greater one, how can I refrain from promising myself
a far easier and more speedy adjustment of this difference, when the cause
which hinders general harmony of sentiment is intrinsically trifling and
of little moment?
CHAPTER LXIX: Origin of the Controversy
between Alexander and Arius, and that these Questions ought not to have
"I UNDERSTAND, then, that the origin
of the present controversy is this. When you, Alexander, demanded of the
presbyters what opinion they severally maintained respecting a certain
passage in the Divine law, or rather, I should say, that you asked them
something connected with an unprofitable question, then you, Arius, inconsiderately
insisted on what ought never to have been conceived at all, or if
conceived, should have been buried in profound silence. Hence it was that
a dissension arose between you, fellowship was withdrawn, and the holy
people, rent into diverse parties, no longer preserved the unity of the
one body. Now, therefore, do ye both exhibit an equal degree of forbearance,
and receive the advice which your fellow servant righteously gives. What
then is this advice? It was wrong in the first instance to propose such
questions as these, or to reply to them when propounded. For those points
of discussion which are enjoined by the authority of no law, but rather
suggested by the contentious spirit which is fostered by misused leisure,
even though they may be intended merely as an intellectual exercise, ought
certainly to be confined to the region of our own thoughts, and not hastily
produced in the popular assemblies, nor unadvisedly entrusted to the general
ear. For how very few are there able either accurately to comprehend, or
adequately to explain subjects so sublime and abstruse in their nature?
Or, granting that one were fully competent for this, how many people will
he convince? Or, who, again, in dealing with questions of such subtle nicety
as these, can secure himself against a dangerous declension from the truth?
It is incumbent therefore on us in these cases to be sparing of our words,
lest, in case we ourselves are unable, through the feebleness of our natural
faculties, to give a clear explanation of the subject before us, or, on
the other hand, in case the slowness of our hearers' understandings disables
them from arriving at an accurate apprehension of what we say, from one
or other of these causes the people be reduced to the alternative either
of blasphemy or schism.
CHAPTER LXX: An Exhortation to Unanimity.
"LET therefore both the unguarded
question and the inconsiderate answer receive your mutual forgiveness.
For the cause of your difference has not been any of the leading doctrines
or precepts of the Divine law, nor has any new heresy respecting the worship
of God arisen among you. You are in truth of one and the same judgment:
you may therefore well join in communion and fellowship.
CHAPTER LXXI: There should be no
Contention in Matters which are in themselves of Little Moment.
"For as long as you continue to contend
about these small and very insignificant questions, it is not fitting that
so large a portion of God's people should be under the direction of your
judgment, since you are thus divided between yourselves. I believe it indeed
to be not merely unbecoming, but positively evil, that such should be the
case. But I will refresh your minds by a little illustration, as follows.
You know that philosophers, though they all adhere to one system, are yet
frequently at issue on certain points, and differ, perhaps, in their degree
of knowledge: yet they are recalled to harmony of sentiment by the uniting
power of their common doctrines. If this be true, is it not far more reasonable
you, who are the ministers of the Supreme God, should be of one mind respecting
the profession of the same religion? But let us still more thoughtfully
and with closer attention examine what I have said, and see whether it
be right that, on the ground of some trifling and foolish verbal difference
between ourselves, brethren should assume towards each other the attitude
of enemies, and the august meeting of the Synod be rent by profane disunion,
because of you who wrangle together on points so trivial and altogether
unessential? This is vulgar, and rather characteristic of childish ignorance,
than consistent I with the wisdom of priests and men of sense. Let us withdraw
ourselves with a good will from these temptations of the devil. Our great
God and common Savior of all has granted the same light to us all. Permit
me, who am his servant, to bring my task to a successful issue, under the
direction of his Providence, that I may be enabled, through my exhortations,
and diligence, and earnest admonition, to recall his people to communion
and fellowship. For since you have, as I said, but one faith, and one sentiment
respecting our religion, and since the Divine commandment in all its parts
enjoins on us all the duty of maintaining a spirit of concord, let not
the circumstance which has led to a slight difference between you, since
it does not affect the validity of the whole, cause any division or schism
among you. And this I say without in any way desiring to force you to entire
unity of judgment in regard to this truly idle question, whatever its real
nature may be. For the dignity of your synod may be preserved, and the
communion of your whole body maintained unbroken, however wide a difference
may exist among you as to unimportant matters. For we are not all of us
like-minded on every subject, nor is there such a thing as one disposition
and judgment common to all alike. As far, then, as regards the Divine Providence,
let there be one faith, and one understanding among you, one united judgment
in reference to God. But as to your subtle disputations on questions of
little or no significance, though you may be unable to harmonize in sentiment,
such differences should be consigned to the secret custody of your own
minds and thoughts. And now, let the preciousness of common affection,
let faith in the truth, let the honor due to God and to the observance
of his law continue immovably among you. Resume, then, your mutual feelings
of friendship, love, and regard: restore to the people their wonted embracings;
and do ye yourselves, having purified your souls, as it were, once more
acknowledge one another. For it often happens that when a reconciliation
is effected by the removal of the causes of enmity, friendship becomes
even sweeter than it was before.
CHAPTER LXXII: The Excess of his
Pious Concern caused him to shed Tears; and his Intended Journey to the
East was postponed because of These Things.
"RESTORE me then my quiet days, and
untroubled nights, that the joy of undimmed light, the delight of a tranquil
life, may henceforth be my portion. Else must I needs mourn, with constant
tears, nor shall I be able to pass the residue of my days in peace. For
while the people of God, whose fellow servant I am, are thus divided amongst
themselves by an unreasonable and pernicious spirit of contention, how
is it possible that I shall be able to maintain tranquillity of mind? And
I will give you a proof how great my sorrow has been on this behalf. Not
long since I had visited Nicomedia, and intended forthwith to proceed from
that city to the East. It was while I was hastening towards you, and had
already accomplished the greater part of the distance, that the news of
this matter reversed my plan, that I might not be compelled to see with
my own eyes that which I felt myself scarcely able even to hear. Open then
for me henceforward by your unity of judgment that road to the regions
of the East which your dissensions have closed against me, and permit me
speedily to see yourselves and all other peoples rejoicing together, and
render due acknowledgment to God in the language of praise and thanksgiving
for the restoration of general concord and liberty to all."
CHAPTER LXXIII: The Controversy continues
without Abatement, even after the Receipt of This Letter.
IN this manner the pious emperor
endeavored by means of the foregoing letter to promote the peace of the
Church of God. And the excellent man to whom it was entrusted performed
his part not merely by communicating the letter itself, but also by seconding
the views of him who sent it; for he was, as I have said, in all respects
a person of pious character. The evil, however, was greater than could
be remedied by a single letter, insomuch that the acrimony of the contending
parties continually increased, and the effects of the mischief extended
to all the Eastern provinces. These things jealousy and some evil spirit
who looked with an envious eye on the prosperity of the Church, wrought.
CHAPTER I: A Comparison of Constantine's
Piety with the Wickedness of the Persecutors.
IN this manner that spirit who is
the hater of good, actuated by envy at the blessing enjoyed by the Church,
continued to raise against her the stormy troubles of intestine discord,
in the midst of a period of peace and joy. Meanwhile, however, the divinely-
favored emperor did not slight the duties befitting him, but exhibited
in his whole conduct a direct contrast to those atrocities of which the
cruel tyrants had been lately guilty, and thus triumphed over every enemy
that opposed him. For in the first place, the tyrants, being themselves
alienated from the true God, had enforced by every compulsion the worship
of false deities: Constantine convinced mankind by actions as well as words,
that these bad but an imaginary existence, and exhorted them to acknowledge
the only true God. They had derided his Christ with words of blasphemy:
he assumed that as his safeguard a against which they directed their blasphemies,
and gloried in the symbol of the Savior's passion. They had persecuted
and driven from house and home the servants of Christ: he recalled them
every one, and restored them to their native homes. They had covered them
with dishonor: he made their condition honorable and enviable in the eyes
of all. They had shamefully plundered and sold the goods of godly men:
Constantine not only replaced this loss, but still further enriched them
with abundant presents. They had circulated injurious calumnies, through
their written ordinances, against the prelates of the Church: he on the
contrary, conferred dignity on these individuals by personal marks of honor,
and by his edicts and statutes raised them to higher distinction than before.
They had utterly demolished and razed to the ground the houses of prayer:
he commanded that those which still existed should be enlarged, and that
new ones should be raised on a magnificent scale at the expense of the
imperial treasury. They had ordered the inspired records to be burnt and
utterly destroyed: he decreed that copies of them should be multiplied,
and magnificently adorned at the charge of the imperial treasury. They
had strictly forbidden the prelates, anywhere or on any occasion, to convene
synods; whereas he gathered them to his court from every province, received
them into his palace, and even to his own private apartments and thought
them worthy to share his home and table. They had honored the demons with
offerings: Constantine exposed their error, and continually distributed
the now useless materials for sacrifice, to those who would apply them
to a better use. They had ordered the pagan temples to be sumptuously adorned:
he razed to their foundations those of them which had been the chief objects
of superstitious reverence. They had subjected God's servants to the most
ignominious punishments: he took vengeance on the persecutors, and inflicted
on them just chastisement in the name of God, while he held the memory
of his holy martyrs in constant veneration. They had driven God's Worshipers
from the imperial palaces: he placed full confidence in them at all times,
and knowing them to be the better disposed and more faithful than any beside.
They, the victims of avarice, voluntarily subjected themselves as it were
to the pangs of Tantalus: he with royal magnificence unlocked all his treasures,
and distributed his gifts with rich and high- souled liberality. They committed
countless murders, that they might plunder or confiscate the wealth of
their victims; while throughout the reign of Constantine the sword of justice
hung idle everywhere, and both people and municipal magistrates in every
province were governed rather by paternal authority than by any constraining.
Surely it must seem to all who duly regard these facts, that a new and
fresh era of existence had begun to appear, and a light heretofore unknown
suddenly to dawn from the midst of darkness on the human race: and all
must confess that these things were entirely the work of God, who raised
up this pious emperor to withstand the multitude of the ungodly.
CHAPTER II: Father Remarks on Constantine's
Piety, and his Open Testimony to the Sign of the Cross.
AND when we consider that their iniquities
were without example, and the atrocities which they dared to perpetrate
against the Church such as had never been heard of in any age of the world,
well might God himself bring before us something entirely new, and work
thereby effects such as had hitherto been never either recorded or observed.
And what miracle was ever more marvelous than the virtues of this our emperor,
whom the wisdom of God has vouchsafed as a gift to the human race? For
truly he maintained a continual testimony to the Christ of God with all
boldness, and before all men; and so far was he from shrinking from an
open profession of the Christian name, that he rather desired to make it
manifest to all that he regarded this as his highest honor, now impressing
on his face the salutary sign, and now glorying in it as the trophy which
led him on to victory.
CHAPTER III: Of his Picture surmounted
by a Cross and having beneath it a Dragon.
AND besides this, he caused to be
painted on a lofty tablet, and set up in the front of the portico of his
palace, so as to be visible to all, a representation of the salutary sign
placed above his head, and below it that hateful and savage adversary of
mankind, who by means of the tyranny of the ungodly had wasted the Church
of God, falling headlong, under the form of a dragon, to the abyss of destruction.
For the sacred oracles in the books of God's prophets have described him
as a dragon and a crooked serpent; and for this reason the emperor thus
publicly displayed a painted resemblance of the dragon beneath his own
and his children's feet, stricken through with a dart, and cast headlong
into the depths of the sea.
In this manner he intended to represent
the secret adversary of the human race, and to indicate that he was consigned
to the gulf of perdition by virtue of the salutary trophy placed above
his head. This allegory, then, was thus conveyed by means of the colors
of a picture: and I am filled with wonder at the intellectual greatness
of the emperor, who as if by divine inspiration thus expressed what the
prophets had foretold concerning this monster, saying that "God would bring
his great and strong and terrible sword against the dragon, the flying
serpent; and would destroy the dragon that was in the sea.'' This it was
of which the emperor gave a true and faithful representation in the picture
CHAPTER IV: A Farther Notice of the
Controversies raised in Egypt by Arius.
IN such occupations as these he employed
himself with pleasure: but the effects of that envious spirit which so
troubled the peace of the churches of God in Alexandria, together with
the Theban and Egyptian schism, continued to cause him no little disturbance
of mind. For in fact, in every city bishops were engaged in obstinate conflict
with bishops, and people rising against people; and almost like the fabled
Symplegades, coming into violent collision with each other. Nay, some were
so far transported beyond the bounds of reason as to be guilty of reckless
and outrageous conduct, and even to insult the statues of the emperor.
This state of things had little power to excite his anger, but rather caused
in him sorrow of spirit; for he deeply deplored the folly thus exhibited
by deranged men.
CHAPTER V: Of the Disagreement respecting
the Celebration of Easter.
BUT before this time another most
virulent disorder had existed, and long afflicted the Church; I mean the
difference respecting the salutary feast of Easter. For while one party
asserted that the Jewish custom should be adhered to, the other affirmed
that the exact recurrence of the period should be observed without following
the authority of those who were in error, and strangers to gospel grace.
Accordingly, the people being thus
in every place divided in respect of this, and the sacred observances of
religion confounded for a long period (insomuch that the diversity of judgment
in regard to the time for celebrating one and the same feast caused the
greatest disagreement between those who kept it, some afflicting themselves
with fastings and austerities, while others devoted their time to festive
relaxation), no one appeared who was capable of devising a remedy for the
evil, because the controversy continued equally balanced between both parties.
To God alone, the Almighty, was the healing of these differences an easy
task; and Constantine appeared to be the only one on earth capable of being
his minister for this good end. For as soon as he was made acquainted with
the facts which I have described, and perceived that his letter to the
Alexandrian Christians had failed to produce its due effect, he at once
aroused the energies of his mind, and declared that he must prosecute to
the utmost this war also against the secret adversary who was disturbing
the peace of the Church.
CHAPTER VI: How he ordered a Council
to be held at Nicaea.
THEN as if to bring a divine array
against this enemy, he convoked a general council, and invited the speedy
attendance of bishops from all quarters, in letters expressive of the honorable
estimation in which he held them. Nor was this merely the issuing of a
bare command but the emperor's good will contributed much to its being
carried into effect: for he allowed some the use of the public means of
conveyance, while he afforded to others an ample supply of horses for their
transport. The place, too, selected for the synod, the city Nicaea in Bithynia
(named from "Victory"), was appropriate to the occasion. As soon then as
the imperial injunction was generally made known, all with the utmost willingness
hastened thither, as though they would outstrip one another in a race;
for they were impelled by the anticipation of a happy result to the conference,
by the hope of enjoying present peace, and the desire of beholding something
new and strange in the person of so admirable an emperor. Now when they
were all assembled, it appeared evident that the proceeding was the work
of God, inasmuch as men who had been most widely separated, not merely
in sentiment but also personally, and by difference of country, place,
and nation, were here brought together, and comprised within the walls
of a single city, forming as it were a vast garland of priests, composed
of a variety of the choicest flowers.
CHAPTER VII: Of the General Council,
at which Bishops from all Nations were Present.
IN effect, the most distinguished
of God's ministers from all the churches which abounded in Europe, Libya,
and Asia were here assembled. And a single house of prayer, as though divinely
enlarged, sufficed to contain at once Syrians and Cilicians, Phoenicians
and Arabians, delegates from Palestine, and others from Egypt; Thebans
and Libyans, with those who came from the region of Mesopotamia. A Persian
bishop too was present at this conference, nor was even a Scythian found
wanting to the number. Pontus, Galatia, and Pamphylia, Cappadocia, Asia,
and Phrygia, furnished their most distinguished prelates; while those who
dwelt in the remotest districts of Thrace and Macedonia, of Achaia and
Epirus, were notwithstanding in attendance. Even from Spain itself, one
whose fame was widely spread took his seat as an individual in the great
assembly. The prelate of the imperial city was prevented from attending
by extreme old age; but his presbyters were present, and supplied his place.
Constantine is the first prince of any age who bound together such a garland
as this with the bond of peace, and presented it to his Savior as a thank-offering
for the victories he had obtained over every foe, thus exhibiting in our
own times a similitude of the apostolic company.
CHAPTER VIII: That the Assembly was
composed, as in the days of the Apostles, of Individuals from Various Nations.
FOR it is said that in the
Apostles' age, there were gathered "devout men from every nation under
heaven"; among whom were Parthians, and Medes, and Elamites, and the dwellers
in Mesopotamia, in Judea, and Cappadocia, in Pontus and Asia, in Phrygia
and Pamphylia, in Egypt, and the parts of Libya about Cyrene; and sojourners
from Rome, both Jews and proselytes, Cretans and Arabians. But that assembly
was less, in that not all who composed it were ministers of God; but in
the present company, the number of bishops exceeded two hundred and fifty,
while that of the presbyters and deacons in their train, and the crowd
of acolytes and other attendants was altogether beyond computation.
CHAPTER IX: Of the Virtue and Age
of the Two Hundred and Fifty Bishops.
Of these ministers of God, some were
distinguished by wisdom and eloquence, others by the gravity of their lives,
and by patient fortitude of character, while others again united in themselves
all these graces. There were among them men whose years demanded veneration:
others were younger, and in the prime of mental vigor; and some had but
recently entered on the course of their ministry. For the maintenance of
all ample provision was daily furnished by the emperor's command.
CHAPTER X: Council in the Palace.
Constantine, entering, took his Seat in the Assembly.
Now when the appointed day arrived
on which the council met for the final solution of the questions in dispute,
each member was present for this in the central building of the palace,
which appeared to exceed the rest in magnitude. On each side of the interior
of this were many seats disposed in order, which were occupied by those
who had been invited to attend, according to their rank. As soon, then,
as the whole assembly had seated themselves with becoming orderliness,
a general silence prevailed, in expectation of the emperor's arrival. And
first of all, three of his immediate family entered in succession, then
others also preceded his approach, not of the soldiers or guards who usually
accompanied him, but only friends in the faith. And now, all rising at
the signal which indicated the emperor's entrance, at last he himself proceeded
through the midst of the assembly, like some heavenly messenger of God,
clothed in raiment which glittered as it were with rays of light, reflecting
the glowing radiance of a purple robe, and adorned with the brilliant splendor
of gold and precious stones. Such was the external appearance of his person;
and with regard to his mind, it was evident that he was distinguished by
piety and godly fear. This was indicated by his downcast eyes, the blush
on his countenance, and his gait. For the rest of his personal excellencies,
he surpassed all present in height of stature and beauty of form, as well
as in majestic dignity of mien, and invincible strength and vigor. All
these graces, united to a suavity of manner, and a serenity becoming his
imperial station, declared the excellence of his mental qualities to be
above all praise. As soon as he had advanced to the upper end of the seats,
at first he remained standing, and when a low chair of wrought gold had
been set for him, he waited until the bishops had beckoned to him, and
then sat down, and after him the whole assembly did the same.
CHAPTER XI: Silence of the Council,
after Some Words by the Bishop Eusebius.
The bishop who occupied the chief
place in the right division of the assembly then rose, and, addressing
the emperor, delivered a concise speech, in a strain of thanksgiving to
Almighty God on his behalf. When he had resumed his seat, silence ensued,
and all regarded the emperor with fixed attention; on which he looked serenely
round on the assembly with a cheerful aspect, and, having collected his
thoughts, in a calm and gentle tone gave utterance to the following words.
CHAPTER XII: Constantine's Address
to the Council concerning Peace.
"It was once my chief desire, dearest
friends, to enjoy the spectacle of your united presence; and now that this
desire is fulfilled, I feel myself bound to render thanks to God the universal
King, because, in addition to all his other benefits, he has granted me
a blessing higher than all the rest, in permitting me to see you not only
all assembled together, but all united in a common harmony of sentiment.
I pray therefore that no malignant adversary may henceforth interfere to
mar our happy state; I pray that, now the impious hostility of the tyrants
has been forever removed by the power of God our Savior, that spirit who
delights in evil may devise no other means for exposing the divine law
to blasphemous calumny; for, in my judgment, intestine strife within the
Church of God, is far more evil and dangerous than any kind of war or conflict;
and these our differences appear to me more grievous than any outward trouble.
Accordingly, when, by the will and with the co-operation of God, I had
been victorious over my enemies, I thought that nothing more remained but
to render thanks to him, and sympathize in the joy of those whom he had
restored to freedom through my instrumentality; as soon as I heard that
intelligence which I had least expected to receive, I mean the news of
your dissension, I judged it to be of no secondary importance, but with
the earnest desire that a remedy for this evil also might be found through
my means, I immediately sent to require your presence. And now I rejoice
in beholding your assembly; but I feel that my desires will be most completely
fulfilled when I can see you all united in one judgment, and that common
spirit of peace and concord prevailing amongst you all, which it becomes
you, as consecrated to the service of God, to commend to others. Delay
not, then, dear friends: delay not, ye ministers of God, and faithful servants
of him who is our common Lord and Savior: begin from this moment to discard
the causes of that disunion which has existed among you, and remove the
perplexities of controversy by embracing the principles of peace. For by
such conduct you will at the same time be acting in a manner most pleasing
to the supreme God, and you will confer an exceeding favor on me who am
your fellow- servant."
CHAPTER XIII: How he led the Dissenting
Bishops to Harmony of Sentiment.
As soon as the emperor had spoken
these words in the Latin tongue, which another interpreted, he gave permission
to those who presided in the council to deliver their opinions. On this
some began to accuse their neighbors, who defended themselves, and recriminated
in their turn. In this manner numberless assertions were put forth by each
party, and a violent controversy arose at the very commencement. Notwithstanding
this, the emperor gave patient audience to all alike, and received every
proposition with steadfast attention, and by occasionally assisting the
argument of each party in turn, he gradually disposed even the most vehement
disputants to a reconciliation. At the same time, by the affability of
his address to all, and his use of the Greek language, with which he was
not altogether unacquainted, he appeared in a truly attractive and amiable
light, persuading some, convincing others by his reasonings, praising those
who spoke well, and urging all to unity of sentiment, until at last he
succeeded in bringing them to one mind and judgment respecting every disputed
CHAPTER XIV: Unanimous Declaration
of the Council concerning Faith, and the Celebration of Easter.
The result was that they were not
only united as concerning the faith, but that the time for the celebration
of the salutary feast of Easter was agreed on by all. Those points also
which were sanctioned by the resolution of the whole body were committed
to writing, and received the signature of each several member. Then the
emperor, believing that he had thus obtained a second victory over the
adversary of the Church, proceeded to solemnize a triumphal festival in
honor of God.
CHAPTER XV: How Constantine entertained
the Bishops on the Occasion of his Vicennalia.
About this time he completed the
twentieth year of his reign. On this occasion public festivals were celebrated
by the people of the provinces generally, but the emperor himself invited
and feasted with those ministers of God whom he had reconciled, and thus
offered as it were through them a suitable sacrifice to God. Not one of
the bishops was wanting at the imperial banquet, the circumstances of which
were splendid beyond description. Detachments of the body- guard and other
troops surrounded the entrance of the palace with drawn swords, and through
the midst of these the men of God proceeded without fear into the innermost
of the imperial apartments, in which some were the emperor's own companions
at table, while others reclined on couches arranged on either side. One
might have thought that a picture of Christ's kingdom was thus shadowed
forth, and a dream rather than reality.
CHAPTER XVI: Presents to the Bishops,
and Letters to the People generally.
AFTER the celebration of this brilliant
festival, the emperor courteously received all his guests, and generously
added to the favors he had already bestowed by personally presenting gifts
to each individual according to his rank. He also gave information of the
proceedings of the synod to those who had not been present, by a letter
in his own hand- writing. And this letter also I will inscribe as it were
on some monument by inserting it in this my narrative of his life. It was
CHAPTER XVII: Constantine's Letter
to the Churches respecting the Council at Nicaea.
"CONSTANTINUS AUGUSTUS, to the Churches.
"Having had full proof, in the general prosperity of the empire, how great
the favor of God has been towards us, I have judged that it ought to be
the first object of my endeavors, that unity of faith, sincerity of love,
and community of feeling in regard to the worship of Almighty God, might
be preserved among the highly favored multitude who compose the Catholic
Church. And, inasmuch as this object could not be effectually and certainly
secured, unless all, or at least the greater number of the bishops were
to meet together, and a discussion of all particulars relating to oar most
holy religion to take place; for this reason as numerous an assembly as
possible has been convened, at which I myself was present, as one among
yourselves (and far be it from me to deny that which is my greatest joy,
that I am your fellow- servant), and every question received due and full
examination, until that judgment which God, who sees all things, could
approve, and which tended to unity and concord, was brought to light, so
that no room was left for further discussion or controversy in relation
to the faith.
CHAPTER XVIII: He speaks of their
Unanimity respecting the Feast of Easter, and against the Practice of the
"AT this meeting the question concerning
the most holy day of Easter was discussed, and it was resolved by the united
judgment of all present, that this feast ought to be kept by all and in
every place on one and the same day. For what can be more becoming or honorable
to us than that this feast from which we date our hopes of immortality,
should be observed unfailingly by all alike, according to one ascertained
order and arrangement? And first of all, it appeared an unworthy thing
that in the celebration of this most holy feast we should follow the practice
of the Jews, who have impiously defiled their hands with enormous sin,
and are, therefore, deservedly afflicted with blindness of soul. For we
have it in our power, if we abandon their custom, to prolong the due observance
of this ordinance to future ages, by a truer order, which we have preserved
from the very day of the passion until the present time. Let us then have
nothing in common with the detestable Jewish crowd; for we have received
from our Savior a different way. A course at once legitimate and honorable
lies open to our most holy religion. Beloved brethren, let us with one
consent adopt this course, and withdraw ourselves from all participation
in their baseness. For their boast is absurd indeed, that it is not in
our power without instruction from them to observe these things. For how
should they be capable of forming a sound judgment, who, since their parricidal
guilt in slaying their Lord, have been subject to the direction, not of
reason, but of ungoverned passion, and are swayed by every impulse of the
mad spirit that is in them? Hence it is that on this point as well as others
they have no perception of the truth, so that, being altogether ignorant
of the true adjustment of this question, they sometimes celebrate Easter
twice in the same year. Why then should we follow those who are confessedly
in grievous error? Surely we shall never consent to keep this feast a second
time in the same year. But supposing these reasons were not of sufficient
weight, still it would be incumbent on your Sagacities to strive and pray
continually that the purity of your souls may not seem in anything to be
sullied by fellowship with the customs of these most wicked men. We must
consider, too, that a discordant judgment in a case of such importance,
and respecting such religious festival, is wrong. For our Savior has left
us one feast in commemoration of the day of our deliverance, I mean the
day of his most holy passion; and he has willed that his Catholic Church
should be one, the members of which, however scattered in many and diverse
places, are yet cherished by one pervading spirit, that is, by the will
of God. And let your Holinesses' sagacity reflect how grievous and scandalous
it is that on the self-same days some should be engaged in fasting, others
in festive enjoyment; and again, that after the days of Easter some should
be present at banquets and amusements, while others are fulfilling the
appointed fasts. It is, then, plainly the will of Divine Providence (as
I suppose you all clearly see), that this usage should receive fitting
correction, and be reduced to one uniform rule.
CHAPTER XIX: Exhortation to follow
the Example of the Greater Part of the World.
"Since, therefore, it was needful
that this matter should be rectified, so that we might have nothing in
common with that nation of parricides who slew their Lord: and since that
arrangement is consistent with propriety which is observed by all the churches
of the western, southern, and northern parts of the world, and by some
of the eastern also: for these reasons all are unanimous on this present
occasion in thinking it worthy of adoption. And I myself have undertaken
that this decision should meet with the approval of your Sagacities, in
the hope that your Wisdoms will gladly admit that practice which is observed
at once in the city of Rome, and in Africa; throughout Italy, and in Egypt,
in Spain, the Gauls, Britain, Libya, and the whole of Greece; in the dioceses
of Asia and Pontus, and in Cilicia, with entire unity of judgment. And
you will consider not only that the number of churches is far greater in
the regions I have enumerated than in any other, but also that it is most
fitting that all should unite in desiring that which sound reason appears
to demand, and in avoiding all participation in the perjured conduct of
the Jews. In fine, that I may express my meaning in as few words as possible,
it has been determined by the common judgment of all, that the most holy
feast of Easter should be kept on one and the same day. For on the one
hand a discrepancy of opinion on so sacred a question is unbecoming, and
on the other it is surely best to act on a decision which is free from
strange folly and error.
CHAPTER XX: Exhortation to obey the
Decrees of the Council.
"RECEIVE, then, with all willingness
this truly Divine injunction, and regard it as in truth the gift of God.
For whatever is determined in the holy assemblies of the bishops is to
be regarded as indicative of the Divine will. As soon, therefore, as you
have communicated these proceedings to all our beloved brethren, you are
bound from that time forward to adopt for yourselves, and to enjoin on
others the arrangement above mentioned, and the due observance of this
most sacred day; that whenever I come into the presence of your love, which
I have long desired, I may have it in my power to celebrate the holy feast
with you on the same day, and may rejoice with you on all accounts, when
I behold the cruel power of Satan removed by Divine aid through the agency
of our endeavors, while your faith, and peace, and concord ever? where
flourish. God preserve you, beloved brethren
The emperor transmitted a faithful
copy of this letter to every province, wherein they who read it might discern
as in a mirror the pure sincerity of his thoughts, and of his piety toward
CHAPTER XXI: Recommendation to the
Bishops, on their Departure, to Preserve Harmony.
AND now, when the council was on
the point of being finally dissolved, he summoned all the bishops to meet
him on an appointed day, and on their arrival addressed them in a farewell
speech, in which he recommended them to be diligent in the maintenance
of peace, to avoid contentious disputations, amongst themselves and not
to be jealous, if any one of their number should appear pre-eminent for
wisdom and eloquence, but to esteem the excellence of one a blessing common
to all. On the other hand he reminded them that the more gifted should
forbear to exalt themselves to the prejudice of their humbler brethren,
since it is God's prerogative to judge of real superiority. Rather should
they considerately condescend to the weaker, remembering that absolute
perfection in any case is a rare quality indeed. Each then, should be willing
to accord indulgence to the other for slight offenses, to regard charitably
and pass over mere human weaknesses; holding mutual harmony in the highest
honor, that no occasion of mockery might be given by their dissensions
to those who are ever ready to blaspheme the word of God: whom indeed we
should do all in our power to save, and this cannot be unless our conduct
seems to them attractive. But you are well aware of the fact that testimony
is by no means productive of blessing to all, since some who hear are glad
to secure the supply of their mere bodily necessities, while others court
the patronage of their superiors; some fix their affection on those who
treat them with hospitable kindness, others again, being honored with presents,
love their benefactors in return; but few are they who really desire the
word of testimony, and rare indeed is it to find a friend of truth. Hence
the necessity of endeavoring to meet the case of all, and, physician like,
to administer to each that which may tend to the health of the soul, to
the end that the saving doctrine may be fully honored by all. Of this kind
was the former part of his exhortation; and in conclusion he enjoined them
to offer diligent supplications to God on his behalf. Having thus taken
leave of them, he gave them all permission to return to their respective
countries; and this they did with joy, and thenceforward that unity of
judgment at which they had arrived in the emperor's presence continued
to prevail, and those who had long been divided were bound together as
members of the same body.
CHAPTER XXII: How he dismissed Some,
and wrote Letters to Others; also his Presents.
Full of joy therefore at this success,
the emperor presented as it were pleasant fruits in the way of letters
to those who had not been present at the council. He commanded also that
ample gifts of money should be bestowed on all the people, both in the
country and the cities, being pleased thus to honor the festive occasion
of the twentieth anniversary of his reign.
CHAPTER XXIII: How he wrote to the
Egyptians, exhorting them to Peace.
And now, when all else were at peace,
among the Egyptians alone an implacable contention still raged, so as once
more to disturb the emperor's tranquillity, though not to excite his anger.
For indeed he treated the contending parties with all respect, as fathers,
nay rather, as prophets of God; and again he summoned them to his presence,
and again patiently acted as mediator between them, and honored them with
gifts, and communicated also the result of his arbitration by letter. He
confirmed and sanctioned the decrees of the council, and called on them
to strive earnestly for concord, and not to distract and rend the Church,
but to keep before them the thought of God's judgment. And these injunctions
the emperor sent by a letter written with his own hand.
CHAPTER XXIV: How he wrote Frequent
Letters of a Religious Character to the Bishops and People.
But besides these, his writings are
very numerous on kindred subjects, and he was the author of a multitude
of letters, some to the bishops, in which he laid injunctions on them tending
to the advantage of the churches of God; and sometimes the thrice blessed
one addressed the people of the churches generally, calling them his own
brethren and fellow servants. But perhaps we may hereafter find leisure
to collect these dispatches in a separate form, in order that the integrity
of our present history may not be impaired by their insertion.
CHAPTER XXV: How he ordered the Erection
of a Church at Jerusalem, in the Holy Place of our Savior's Resurrection.
AFTER these things, the pious emperor
addressed himself to another work truly worthy of record, in the province
of Palestine. What then was this work? He judged it incumbent on him to
render the blessed locality of our Savior's resurrection an object of attraction
and veneration to all. He issued immediate injunctions, therefore, for
the erection in that spot of a house of prayer: and this he did, not on
the mere natural impulse of his own mind, but being moved in spirit by
the Savior himself.
CHAPTER XXVI: That the Holy Sepulcher
had been covered with Rubbish and with Idols by the Ungodly.
For it had been in time past the
endeavor of impious men (or rather let me say of the whole race of evil
spirits through their means), to consign to the darkness of oblivion that
divine monument of immortality to which the radiant angel had descended
from heaven, and rolled away the stone for those who still had stony hearts,
and who supposed that the living One still lay among the dead; and had
declared glad tidings to the women also, and removed their stony hearted
unbelief by the conviction that he whom they sought was alive. This sacred
cave, then, certain impious and godless persons had thought to remove entirely
from the eyes of men, supposing in their folly that thus they should be
able effectually to obscure the truth. Accordingly they brought a quantity
of earth from a distance with much labor, and covered the entire spot;
then, having raised this to a moderate height, they paved it with stone,
concealing the holy cave beneath this massive mound. Then, as though their
purpose had been effectually accomplished, they prepare on this foundation
a truly dreadful sepulcher of souls, by building a gloomy shrine of lifeless
idols to the impure spirit whom they call Venus, and offering detestable
oblations therein on profane and accursed altars. For they supposed that
their object could not otherwise be fully attained, than by thus burying
the sacred cave beneath these foul pollutions. Unhappy men! they were unable
to comprehend how impossible it was that their attempt should remain unknown
to him who had been crowned with victory over death, any more than the
blazing sun, when he rises above the earth, and holds his wonted course
through the midst of heaven, is unseen by the whole race of mankind. Indeed,
his saving power, shining with still greater brightness, and illumining,
not the bodies, but the souls of men, was already filling the world with
the effulgence of its own light. Nevertheless, these devices of impious
and wicked men against the truth had prevailed for a long time, nor had
any one of the governors, or military commanders, or even of the emperors
themselves ever yet appeared, with ability to abolish these daring impieties,
save only that one who enjoyed the favor of the King of kings. And now,
acting as he did under the guidance of the divine Spirit, he could not
consent to see the sacred spot of which we have spoken, thus buried, through
the devices of the adversaries, under every kind of impurity, and abandoned
to forgetfulness and neglect; nor would he yield to the malice of those
who had contracted this guilt, but calling on the divine aid, gave orders
that the place should be thoroughly purified, thinking that the parts which
had been most polluted by the enemy ought to receive special tokens, through
his means, of the greatness of the divine favor. As soon, then, as his
commands were issued, these engines of deceit were cast down from their
proud eminence to the very ground, and the dwelling places of error, with
the statues and the evil spirits which they represented, were overthrown
and utterly destroyed.
CHAPTER XXVII: How Constantine commanded
the Materials of the Idol Temple, and the Soil itself, to be removed at
Nor did the emperor's zeal stop here;
but he gave further orders that the materials of what was thus destroyed,
both stone and timber, should be removed and thrown as far from the spot
as possible; and this command also was speedily executed. The emperor,
however, was not satisfied with having proceeded thus far: once more, fired
with holy ardor, he directed that the ground itself should be dug up to
a considerable depth, and the soil which had been polluted by the foul
impurities of demon worship transported to a far distant place.
CHAPTER XXVIII: Discovery of the
Most Holy Sepulcher.
This also was accomplished without
delay. But as soon as the original surface of the ground, beneath the covering
of earth, appeared, immediately, and contrary to all expectation, the venerable
and hollowed monument of our Savior's resurrection was discovered. Then
indeed did this most holy cave present a faithful similitude of his return
to life, in that, after lying buried in darkness, it again emerged to light,
and afforded to all who came to witness the sight, a clear and visible
proof of the wonders of which that spot had once been the scene, a testimony
to the resurrection of the Savior clearer than any voice could give.
CHAPTER XXIX: How he wrote concerning
the Erection of a Church, both to the Governors of the Provinces, and to
the Bishop Macarius.
IMMEDIATELY after the transactions
I have recorded, the emperor sent forth injunctions which breathed a truly
pious spirit, at the same time granting ample supplies of money, and commanding
that a house of prayer worthy of the worship of God should be erected near
the Savior's tomb on a scale of rich and royal greatness. This object he
had indeed for some time kept in view, and had foreseen, as if by the aid
of a superior intelligence, that which should afterwards come to pass.
He laid his commands, therefore, on the governors of the Eastern provinces,
that by an abundant and unsparing expenditure they should secure the completion
of the work on a scale of noble and ample magnificence. He also dispatched
the following letter to the bishop who at that time presided over the church
at Jerusalem, in which he clearly asserted the saving doctrine of the faith,
writing in these terms.
CHAPTER XXX: Constantine's Letter
to Macarius respecting the Building of the Church of our Savior.
"VICTOR CONSTANTIUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
"Such is our Savior's grace, that
no power of language seems adequate to describe the wondrous circumstance
to which I am about to refer. For, that the monument of his most holy Passion,
so long ago buried beneath the ground, should have remained unknown for
so long a series of years, until its reappearance to his servants now set
free through the removal of him who was the common enemy of all,
is a fact which truly surpasses all admiration. For if all who are accounted
wise throughout the world were to unite in their endeavors to say somewhat
worthy of this event, they would be unable to attain their object in the
smallest degree. Indeed, the nature of this miracle as far transcends the
capacity of human reason as heavenly things are superior to human affairs.
For this cause it is ever my first, and indeed my only object, that, as
the authority of the truth is evincing itself daily by fresh wonders, so
our souls may all become more zealous, with all sobriety and earnest unanimity,
for the honor of the Divine law. I desire, therefore, especially, that
you should be persuaded of that which I suppose is evident to all beside,
namely, that I have no greater care than how I may best adorn with a splendid
structure that sacred spot, which, under Divine direction, I have disencumbered
as it were of the heavy weight of foul idol worship; a spot which has been
accounted holy from the beginning in God's judgment, but which now appears
holier still, since it has brought to light a clear assurance of our Savior's
CHAPTER XXXI: That the Building should
surpass all the Churches in the World in the Beauty of its Walls, its Columns,
"IT will be well, therefore, for
your sagacity to make such arrangements and provision of all things needful
for the work, that not only the church itself as a whole may surpass all
others whatsoever in beauty, but that the details of the building may be
of such a kind that the fairest structures in any city of the empire may
be excelled by this. And with respect to the erection and decoration of
the walls, this is to inform you that our friend Dracilianus, the deputy
of the Praetorian Prefects, and the governor of the province, have received
a charge from us. For our pious directions to them are to the effect that
artificers and laborers, and whatever they shall understand from your sagacity
to be needful for the advancement of the work, shall forthwith be furnished
by their care. And as to the columns and marbles, whatever you shall judge,
after actual inspection of the plan, to be especially precious and serviceable,
be diligent to send information to us in writing, in order that whatever
quantity or sort of materials we shall esteem from your letter to be needful,
may be procured from every quarter, as required, for it is fitting that
the most marvelous place in the world should be worthily decorated.
CHAPTER XXXII: That he instructed
the Governors concerning the Beautifying of the Roof; also concerning Workmen,
"WITH respect to the ceiling of the
church, I wish to know from you whether in your judgment it should be panel-ceiled,
or finished with any other kind of workmanship. If the panel ceiling be
adopted, it may also be ornamented with gold. For the rest, your Holiness
will give information as early as possible to the before- mentioned magistrates
how many laborers and artificers, and what expenditure of money is required.
You will also be careful to send us a report without delay, not only respecting
the marbles and columns, but the paneled ceiling also, should this appear
to you to be the most beautiful form. God preserve you, beloved brother!"
CHAPTER XXXIII: How the Church of
our Savior, the New Jerusalem prophesied of in Scripture, was built.
This was the emperor's letter; and
his directions were at once carried into effect. Accordingly, on the very
spot which witnessed the Savior's sufferings, a new Jerusalem was constructed,
over against the one so celebrated of old, which, since the foul stain
of guilt brought on it by the murder of the Lord, had experienced the last
extremity of desolation, the effect of Divine judgment on its impious people.
It was opposite this city that the emperor now began to rear a monument
to the Savior's victory over death, with rich and lavish magnificence.
And it may be that this was that second and new Jerusalem spoken of in
the predictions of the prophets, concerning which such abundant testimony
is given in the divinely inspired records.
First of all, then, he adorned the
sacred cave itself, as the chief part of the whole work, and the hallowed
monument at which the angel radiant with light had once declared to all
that regeneration which was first manifested in the Savior's person.
CHAPTER XXXIV: Description of the
Structure of the Holy Sepulcher.
This monument, therefore, first of
all, as the chief part of the whole, the emperor's zealous magnificence
beautified with rare columns, anti profusely enriched with the most splendid
decorations of every kind.
CHAPTER XXXV: Description of the
Atrium and Porticos.
The next object of his attention
was a space of ground of great extent, and open to the pure air of heaven.
This he adorned with a pavement of finely polished stone, and enclosed
it on three sides with porticos of great length.
CHAPTER XXXVI: Description of the
Walls, Roof, Decoration, and Gilding of the Body of the Church.
For at the side opposite to the cave,
which was the eastern side, the church itself was erected; a noble work
rising to a vast height, and of great extent both in length and breadth.
The interior of this structure was floored with marble slabs of various
colors; while the external surface of the walls, which shone with polished
stones exactly fitted together, exhibited a degree of splendor in no respect
inferior to that of marble. With regard to the roof, it was covered on
the outside with lead, as a protection against the rains of winter. But
the inner part of the roof, which was finished with sculptured panel work,
extended in a series of connected compartments, like a vast sea, over the
whole church; (1) and, being overlaid throughout with the purest gold,
caused the entire building to glitter as it were with rays of light.
CHAPTER XXXVII: Description of the
Double Porticos on Either Side, and of the Three Eastern Gates.
BESIDES this were two porticos on
each side, with upper and lower ranges of pillars, corresponding in length
with the church itself; and these also had their roofs ornamented with
gold. Of these porticos, those which were exterior to the church were supported
by columns of great size, while those within these rested on piles (2)
of stone beautifully adorned on the surface. Three gates, placed exactly
east, were intended to receive the multitudes who entered the church.
CHAPTER XXXVIII: Description of the
Hemisphere, the Twelve Columns, and their Bowls.
OPPOSITE these gates the crowning
part of the whole was the hemisphere, which rose to the very summit of
the church. This was encircled by twelve columns (according to the number
of the apostles of our Savior), having their capitals embellished with
silver bowls of great size, which the emperor himself presented as a splendid
offering to his God.
CHAPTER XXXIX: Description of the
Inner Court, the Arcades and Porches.
In the next place he enclosed the
atrium which occupied the space leading to the entrances in front of the
church. This comprehended, first the court, then the porticos on each side,
and lastly the gates of the court. After these, in the midst of the open
market-place, the general entrance gates, which were of exquisite workmanship,
afforded to passers-by on the outside a view of the interior which could
not fail to inspire astonishment.
CHAPTER XL: Of the Number of his
This temple, then, the emperor erected
as a conspicuous monument of the Savior's resurrection, and embellished
it throughout on an imperial scale of magnificence. He further enriched
it with numberless offerings of inexpressible beauty and various materials,--gold,
silver, and precious stones, the skillful and elaborate arrangement of
which, in regard to their magnitude, number, and variety, we have not leisure
at present to describe particularly.
CHAPTER XLI: Of the Erection of Churches
in Bethlehem, and an the Mount of Olives.
In the same country he discovered
other places, venerable as being the localities of two sacred caves: and
these also he adorned with lavish magnificence. In the one case, he rendered
due honor to that which had been the scene of the first manifestation of
our Savior's divine presence, when he submitted to be born in mortal flesh;
while in the case of the second cavern he hallowed the remembrance of his
ascension to heaven from the mountain top. And while he thus nobly testified
his reverence for these places, he at the same time eternalized the memory
of his mother, who had been the instrument of conferring so valuable a
benefit on mankind.
CHAPTER XLII: That the Empress Helena,
Constantine's Mother, having visited this Locality for Devotional Purposes,
built these Churches.
For she, having resolved to discharge
the duties of pious devotion to the God, the King of kings, and feeling
it incumbent on her to render thanksgivings with prayers on behalf both
of her own son, now so mighty an emperor, and of his sons, her own grandchildren,
the divinely favored Caesars, though now advanced in years, yet gifted
with no common degree of wisdom, had hastened with youthful alacrity to
survey this venerable land; and at the same time to visit the eastern provinces,
cities, and people, with a truly imperial solicitude. As soon, then, as
she had rendered due reverence to the ground which the Savior's feet had
trodden, according to the prophetic word which says "Let us worship at
the place whereon his feet have stood," she immediately bequeathed the
fruit of her piety to future generations.
CHAPTER XLIII: A Farther Notice of
the Churches at Bethlehem.
FOR without delay she dedicated two
churches to the God whom she adored, one at the grotto which had been the
scene of the Savior's birth; the other on the mount of his ascension. For
he who was "God with us" had submitted to be born even in a cave of the
earth, and the place of his nativity was called Bethlehem by the Hebrews.
Accordingly the pious empress honored with rare memorials the scene of
her travail who bore this heavenly child, and beautified the sacred cave
with all possible splendor. The emperor himself soon after testified his
reverence for the spot by princely offerings, and added to his mother's
magnificence by costly presents of silver and gold, and embroidered hangings.
And farther, the mother of the emperor raised a stately structure on the
Mount of Olives also, in memory of his ascent to heaven who is the Savior
of mankind, erecting a sacred church and temple on the very summit of the
mount. And indeed authentic history informs us that in this very cave the
Savior imparted his secret revelations to his disciples. And here also
the emperor testified his reverence for the King of kings, by diverse and
costly offerings. Thus did Helena Augusta, the pious mother of a pious
emperor, erect over the two mystic caverns these two noble and beautiful
monuments of devotion, worthy of everlasting remembrance, to the honor
of God her Savior, and as proofs of her holy zeal, receiving from her son
the aid of his imperial power. Nor was it long ere this aged woman reaped
the due reward of her labors. After passing the whole period of her life,
even to declining age, in the greatest prosperity, and exhibiting both
in word and deed abundant fruits of obedience to the divine precepts, and
having enjoyed in consequence an easy and tranquil existence, with unimpaired
powers of body and mind, at length she obtained from God an end befitting
her pious course, and a recompense of her good deeds even in this present
CHAPTER XLIV: Of Helena's Generosity
and Beneficent Acts.
For on the occasion of a circuit
which she made of the eastern provinces, in the splendor of imperial authority,
she bestowed abundant proofs of her liberality as well on the inhabitants
of the several cities collectively, as on individuals who approached her,
at the same time that she scattered largesses among the soldiery with a
liberal hand. But especially abundant were the gifts she bestowed on the
naked and unprotected poor. To some she gave money, to others an ample
supply of clothing: she liberated some from imprisonment, or from the bitter
servitude of the mines; others she delivered from unjust oppression, and
others again, she restored from exile.
CHAPTER XLV: Helena's Pious Conduct
in the Churches.
WHILE, however, her character derived
luster from such deeds as I have described, she was far from neglecting
personal piety toward God. She might be seen continually frequenting his
Church, while at the same time she adorned the houses of prayer with splendid
offerings, not overlooking the churches of the smallest cities. In short,
this admirable woman was to be seen, in simple and modest attire, mingling
with the crowd of worshipers, and testifying her devotion to God by a uniform
course of pious conduct.
CHAPTER XLVI: How she made her Will,
and died at the Age of Eighty Years.
AND when at length at the close of
a long life, she was called to inherit a happier lot, having arrived at
the eightieth year of her age, and being very near the time of her departure,
she prepared and executed her last will in favor of her only son, the emperor
and sole monarch of the world, and her grandchildren, the Caesars his sons,
to whom severally she bequeathed whatever property she possessed in any
part of the world. Having thus made her will, this thrice blessed woman
died in the presence of her illustrious son, who was in attendance at her
side, caring for her and held her hands: so that, to those who rightly
discerned the truth, the thrice blessed one seemed not to die, but to experience
a real change and transition from an earthly to a heavenly existence, since
her soul, remolded as it were into an incorruptible and angelic essence,
was received up into her Savior's presence.
CHAPTER XLVII: How Constantine buried
his Mother, and how he honored her during her Life.
HER body, too, was honored with special
tokens of respect, being escorted on its way to the imperial city by a
vast train of guards, and there deposited in a royal tomb. Such were the
last days of our emperor's mother, a person worthy of being had in perpetual
remembrance, both for her own practical piety, and because she had given
birth to so extraordinary and admirable an offspring. And well may his
character be styled blessed, for his filial piety as well as on other grounds.
He rendered her through his influence so devout a worshiper of God, (though
she had not previously been such,) that she seemed to have been instructed
from the first by the Savior of mankind: and besides this, he had honored
her so fully with imperial dignities, that in every province, and in the
very ranks of the soldiery, she was spoken of under the titles of Augusta
and empress, and her likeness was impressed on golden coins. He had even
granted her authority over the imperial treasures, to use and dispense
them according to her own will and discretion in every case for this enviable
distinction also she received at the hands of her son. Hence it is that
among the qualities which shed a luster on his memory, we may rightly include
that surpassing degree of filial affection whereby he rendered full obedience
to the Divine precepts which enjoin due honor from children to their parents.
In this manner, then, the emperor executed in Palestine the noble works
I have above described: and indeed in every province he raised new churches
on a far more imposing scale than those which had existed before his time.
CHAPTER XLVIII: How he built Churches
in Honor of Martyrs, and abolished Idolatry at Constantinople.
And being fully resolved to distinguish
the city which bore his name with especial honor, he embellished it with
numerous sacred edifices, both memorials of martyrs on the largest scale,
and other buildings of the most splendid kind, not only within the city
itself, but in its vicinity: and thus at the same time he rendered honor
to the memory of the martyrs, and consecrated his city to the martyrs'
God. Being filled, too, with Divine wisdom, he determined to purge the
city which was to be distinguished by his own name from idolatry of every
kind, that henceforth no statues might be worshiped there in the temples
of those falsely reputed to be gods, nor any altars defiled by the pollution
of blood: that there might be no sacrifices consumed by fire, no demon
festivals, nor any of the other ceremonies usually observed by the superstitious.
CHAPTER XLIX: Representation of the
Cross in the Palace, and of Daniel at the Public Fountains.
On the other hand one might see the
fountains in the midst of the market place graced with figures representing
the good Shepherd, well known to those who study the sacred oracles, and
that of Daniel also with the lions, forged in brass, and resplendent with
plates of gold. Indeed, so large a measure of Divine love possessed the
emperor's soul, that in the principal apartment of the imperial palace
itself, on a vast tablet displayed in the center of its gold covered
paneled ceiling, he caused the symbol of our Savior's Passion to be fixed,
composed of a variety of precious stones richly inwrought with gold. This
symbol he seemed to have intended to be as it were the safeguard of the
CHAPTER L: That he erected Churches
in Nicomedia, and in Other Cities.
HAVING thus embellished the city
which bore his name, he next distinguished the capital of Bithynia by the
erection of a stately and magnificent church, being desirous of raising
in this city also, in honor of his Savior and at his own charges, a memorial
of his victory over his own enemies and the adversaries of God. He also
decorated the principal cities of the other provinces with sacred edifices
of great beauty; as, for example, in the case of that metropolis of the
East which derived its name from Antiochus, in which, as the head of that
portion of the empire, he consecrated to the service of God a church of
unparalleled size and beauty. The entire building was encompassed by an
enclosure of great extent, within which the church itself rose to a vast
elevation, being of an octagonal form, and surrounded on all sides by many
chambers, courts, and upper and lower apartments; the whole richly adorned
with a profusion of gold, brass, and other materials of the most costly
CHAPTER LI: That he ordered a Church
to be built at Mambre.
Such was the principal sacred edifices
erected by the emperor's command. But having heard that the self-same Savior
who erewhile had appeared on earth had in ages long since past afforded
a manifestation of his Divine presence to holy men of Palestine near the
oak of Mambre, he ordered that a house of prayer should be built there
also in honor of the God who had thus appeared. Accordingly the imperial
commission was transmitted to the provincial governors by letters addressed
to them individually, enjoining a speedy completion of the appointed work.
He sent moreover to the writer of this history an eloquent admonition,
a copy of which I think it well to insert in the present work, in order
to convey a just idea of his pious diligence and zeal. To express, then,
his displeasure at the evil practices which he had heard were usual in
the place just referred to, he addressed me in the following terms.
CHAPTER LII: Constantine's Letter
to Eusebius concerning Mambre.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to Macarius, and the rest of the bishops in Palestine.
"One benefit, and that of no ordinary
importance, has been conferred on us by my truly pious mother-in-law,
in that she has made known to us by letter that abandoned folly of impious
men which has hitherto escaped detection by you: so that the criminal conduct
thus overlooked may now through our means obtain fitting correction and
remedy, necessary though tardy. For surely it is a grave impiety indeed,
that holy places should be defiled by the stain of unhallowed impurities.
What then is this, dearest brethren, which, though it has eluded your sagacity,
she of whom I speak was impelled by a pious sense of duty to disclose?
CHAPTER LIII: That the Savior appeared
in this Place to Abraham.
"SHE assures me, then, that the place
which takes its name from the oak of Mambre, where we find that Abraham
dwelt, is defiled by certain of the slaves of superstition in every possible
way. She declares that idols which should be utterly destroyed have
been erected on the site of that tree; that an altar is near the spot;
and that impure sacrifices are continually performed. Now since it is evident
that these practices are equally inconsistent with the character of our
times, and unworthy the sanctity of the place itself, I wish your Gravities
to be informed that the illustrious Count Acacius, our friend, has received
instructions by letter from me, to the effect that every idol which shall
be found in the place above mentioned shall immediately be consigned to
the flames; that the altar be utterly demolished; and that if any one,
after this our mandate, shall be guilty of impiety of any kind in this
place, he shall be visited with condign punishment. The place itself we
have directed to be adorned with an unpolluted structure, I mean a church;
in order that it may become a fitting place of assembly for holy men. Meantime,
should any breach of these our commands occur, it should be made known
to our clemency without the least delay by letters from you, that we may
direct the person detected to be dealt with, as a transgressor of the law,
in the severest manner. For you are not ignorant that the Supreme God first
appeared to Abraham, and conversed with him, in that place. There it was
that the observance of the Divine law first began; there first the Savior
himself, with the two angels, vouchsafed to Abraham a manifestation of
his presence; there God first appeared to men; there he gave promise to
Abraham concerning his future seed, and straightway fulfilled that promise;
there he foretold that he should be the father of a multitude of nations.
For these reasons, it seems to me right that this place should not only
be kept pure through your diligence from all defilement, but restored also
to its pristine sanctity; that nothing hereafter may be done there except
the performance of fitting service to him who is the Almighty God, and
our Savior, and Lord of all. And this service it is incumbent on you to
care for with due attention, if your Gravities be willing (and of this
I feel confident) to gratify my wishes, which are especially interested
in the worship of God. May he preserve you, beloved brethren!"
CHAPTER LIV: Destruction of Idol
Temples and Images everywhere.
ALL these things the emperor diligently
performed to the praise of the saving power of Christ, and thus made it
his constant aim to glorify his Savior God. On the other hand he used every
means to rebuke the superstitious errors of the heathen. Hence the entrances
of their temples in the several cities were left exposed to the weather,
being stripped of their doors at his command; the tiling of others was
removed, and their roofs destroyed. From others again the venerable statues
of brass, of which the superstition of antiquity had boasted for a long
series of years, were exposed to view in all the public places of the imperial
city: so that here a Python, there a Sminthian Apollo, excited the contempt
of the beholder: while the Delphic tripods were deposited in the hippodrome
and the Muses of Helicon in the palace itself. In short, the city which
bore his name was everywhere filled with brazen statues of the most exquisite
workmanship, which had been dedicated in every province, and which the
deluded victims of superstition had long vainly honored as gods with numberless
victims and burnt sacrifices, though now at length they learnt to renounce
their error, when the emperor held up the very objects of their worship
to be the ridicule and sport of all beholders. With regard to those images
which were of gold, he dealt with them in a different manner. For as soon
as he understood that the ignorant multitudes were inspired with a vain
and childish dread of these bugbears of error, wrought in gold and silver,
he judged it right to remove these also, like stumbling-stones thrown in
the way of men walking in the dark, and henceforward to open a royal road,
plain and unobstructed to all. Having formed this resolution, he considered
no soldiers or military force of any sort needful for the suppression of
the evil: a few of his own friends sufficed for this service, and these
he sent by a simple expression of his will to visit each several province.
Accordingly, sustained by confidence in the emperor's pious intentions
and their own personal devotion to God, they passed through the midst of
numberless tribes and nations, abolishing this ancient error in every city
and country. They ordered the priests themselves, amidst general laughter
and scorn, to bring their gods from their dark recesses to the light of
day: they then stripped them of their ornaments, and exhibited to the gaze
of all the unsightly reality which had been hidden beneath a painted exterior.
Lastly, whatever part of the material appeared valuable they scraped off
and melted in the fire to prove its worth, after which they secured and
set apart whatever they judged needful for their purpose, leaving to the
superstitious worshipers that which was altogether useless, as a memorial
of their shame. Meanwhile our admirable prince was himself engaged in a
work similar to what we have described. For at the same time that these
costly images of the dead were stripped, as we have said, of their precious
materials, he also attacked those composed of brass; causing those to be
dragged from their places with ropes and as it were carried away captive,
whom the dotage of mythology had esteemed as gods.
CHAPTER LV: Overthrow of an Idol
Temple, and Abolition of Licentious Practices, at Aphaca in Phoenicia.
THE emperor's next care was to kindle,
as it were, a brilliant torch, by the light of which he directed his imperial
gaze around, to see if any hidden vestiges of error might still exist.
And as the keen sighted eagle in its heavenward flight is able to descry
from its lofty height the most distant objects on the earth, so did he,
while residing in the imperial palace of his own fair city, discover as
from a watch-tower a hidden and fatal snare of souls in the province of
Phoenicia. This was a grove and temple, not situated in the midst of any
city, nor in any public place, as for splendor of effect is generally the
case, but apart from the beaten and frequented road, at Aphaca, on part
of the summit of Mount Lebanon, and dedicated to the foul demon known by
the name of Venus. It was a school of wickedness for all the votaries of
impurity, and such as destroyed their bodies with effeminacy. Here men
undeserving of the name forgot the dignity of their sex, and propitiated
the demon by their effeminate conduct; here too unlawful commerce of women
and adulterous intercourse, with other horrible and infamous practices,
were perpetrated in this temple as in a place beyond the scope and restraint
of law. Meantime these evils remained unchecked by the presence of any
observer, since no one of fair character ventured to visit such scenes.
These proceedings, however, could not escape the vigilance of our august
emperor, who, having himself inspected them with characteristic forethought,
and judging that such a temple was unfit for the light of heaven, gave
orders that the building with its offerings should be utterly destroyed.
Accordingly, in obedience to the imperial command, these engines of an
impure superstition were immediately abolished, and the hand of military
force was made instrumental in purging the place. And now those who had
heretofore lived without restraint learned self-control through the emperor's
threat of punishment, as likewise those superstitious Gentiles wise in
their own conceit, who now obtained experimental proof of their own folly.
CHAPTER LVI: Destruction of the Temple
of Aesculapius at Aegae.
FOR since a wide-spread error of
these pretenders to wisdom concerned the demon worshiped in Cilicia, whom
thousands regarded with reverence as the possessor of saving and healing
power, who sometimes appeared to those who passed the night in his temple,
sometimes restored the diseased to health, though on the contrary he was
a destroyer of souls, who drew his easily deluded worshipers from the true
Savior to involve them in impious error, the emperor, consistently with
his practice, and desire to advance the worship of him who is at once a
jealous God and the true Savior, gave directions that this temple also
should be razed to the ground. In prompt obedience to this command, a band
of soldiers laid this building, the admiration of noble philosophers, prostrate
in the dust, together with its unseen inmate, neither demon nor god, but
rather a deceiver of souls, who had seduced mankind for so long a time
through various ages. And thus he who had promised to others deliverance
from misfortune and distress, could find no means for his own security,
any more than when, as is told in myth, he was scorched by the lightning's
stroke. Our emperor's pious deeds, however, had in them nothing fabulous
or feigned; but by virtue of the manifested power of his Savior, this temple
as well as others was so utterly overthrown, that not a vestige of the
former follies was left behind.
CHAPTER LVII: How the Gentiles abandoned
Idol Worship, and turned to the Knowledge of God.
HENCE it was that, of those who had
been the slaves of superstition, when they saw with their own eyes the
exposure of their delusion, and beheld the actual ruin of the temples and
images in every place, some applied themselves to the saving doctrine of
Christ; while others, though they declined to take this step, yet reprobated
the folly which they had received from their fathers, and laughed to scorn
what they had so long been accustomed to regard as gods. Indeed, what other
feelings could possess their minds, when they witnessed the thorough uncleanness
concealed beneath the fair exterior of the objects of their worship? Beneath
this were found either the bones of dead men or dry skulls, fraudulently
adorned by the arts of magicians, or filthy rags full of abominable impurity,
or a bundle of hay or stubble. On seeing all these things heaped together
within their lifeless images, they denounced their fathers' extreme folly
and their own, especially when neither in the secret recesses of the temples
nor in the statues themselves could any inmate be found; neither demon,
nor utterer of oracles, neither god nor prophet, as they had heretofore
supposed: nay, not even a dim and shadowy phantom could be seen. Accordingly,
every gloomy cavern, every hidden recess, afforded easy access to the emperor's
emissaries: the inaccessible and secret chambers, the innermost shrines
of the temples, were trampled by the soldiers' feet; and thus the mental
blindness which had prevailed for so many ages over the gentile world became
clearly apparent to the eyes of all.
CHAPTER LVIII: How he destroyed the
Temple of Venus at Heliopolis, and built the First Church in that City.
SUCH actions as I have described
may well be reckoned among the emperor's noblest achievements, as also
the wise arrangements which he made respecting each particular province.
We may instance the Phoenician city Heliopolis, in which those who dignify
licentious pleasure with a distinguishing title of honor, had permitted
their wives and daughters to commit shameless fornication. But now a new
statute, breathing the very spirit of modesty, proceeded from the emperor,
which peremptorily forbade the continuance of former practices. And besides
this he sent them also written exhortations, as though he had been especially
ordained by God for this end, that he might instruct all men in the principles
of chastity. Hence, he disdained not to communicate by letter even with
these persons, urging them to seek diligently the knowledge of God. At
the same time he followed up his words by corresponding deeds, and erected
even in this city a church of great size and magnificence: so that an event
unheard of before in any age, now for the first time came to pass, namely,
that a city which had hitherto been wholly given up to superstition now
obtained the privilege of a church of God, with presbyters and deacons,
and its people were placed under the presiding care of a bishop consecrated
to the service of the supreme God. And further, the emperor, being anxious
that here also as many as possible might be won to the truth, bestowed
abundant provision for the necessities of the poor, desiring even thus
to invite them to seek the doctrines of salvation, as though he were almost
adopting the words of him who said, "Whether in pretense, or in truth,
let Christ be preached."
CHAPTER LIX: Of the Disturbance at
Antioch by Eustathius.
IN the midst, however, of the general
happiness occasioned by these events, and while the Church of God was every
where and every way flourishing throughout the empire, once more that spirit
of envy, who ever watches for the ruin of the good, prepared himself to
combat the greatness of our prosperity, in the expectation, perhaps, that
the emperor himself, provoked by our tumults and disorders, might eventually
become estranged from us. Accordingly, he kindled a furious controversy
at Antioch, and thereby involved the church in that place in a series of
tragic calamities, which had well-nigh occasioned the total overthrow of
the city. The members of the Church were divided into two opposite parties;
while the people, including even the magistrates and soldiery, were roused
to such a pitch, that the contest would have been decided by the sword,
had not the watchful providence of God, as well as dread of the emperor's
displeasure, controlled the fury of the multitude. On this occasion, too,
the emperor, acting the part of a preserver and physician of souls, applied
with much forbearance the remedy of persuasion to those who needed it.
He gently pleaded, as it were by an embassy, with his people, sending among
them one of the best approved and most faithful of those who were honored
with the dignity of Count; at the same time that he exhorted them to a
peaceable spirit by repeated letters, and instructed them in the practice
of true godliness, Having prevailed by these remonstrances, he excused
their conduct in his subsequent letters, alleging that he had himself heard
the merits of the case from him on whose account the disturbance had arisen.
And these letters of his, which are replete with learning and instruction
of no ordinary kind, I should have inserted in this present work, were
it not that they might affix a mark of dishonor to the character of the
persons accused. I will therefore omit these, being unwilling to revive
the memory of past grievances, and will only annex those to my present
narrative which he wrote to testify his satisfaction at the re- establishment
of peace and concord among the rest. In these letters, he cautioned them
against any desire to claim the ruler of another district, through whose
intervention peace had been restored, as their own, and exhorted them,
consistently with the usage of the Church, to choose him as their bishop,
whom the common Savior of all should point out as suited for the office.
His letter, then, is addressed to the people and to the bishops, severally,
in the following terms.
CHAPTER LX: Constantine's Letter
to the Antiochians, directing them not to withdraw Eusebius from Coesarea,
but to seek some one else.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to the people of Antioch.
"How pleasing to the wise and intelligent
portion of mankind is the concord which exists among you! And I myself,
brethren, am disposed to love you with an enduring affection, inspired
both by religion, and by your own manner of life and zeal on my behalf.
It is by the exercise of right understanding and sound discretion, that
we are enabled really to enjoy our blessings. And what can become you so
well as I this discretion? No wonder, then, if I affirm that your maintenance
of the truth has tended rather to promote your security than to draw on
you the hatred of others. Indeed, amongst brethren, whom the selfsame disposition
to walk in the ways of truth and righteousness promises, through the favor
of God, to register among his pure and holy family, what can be more honorable
than gladly to acquiesce in the prosperity of all men? Especially since
the precepts of the divine law prescribe a better direction to your proposed
intention, and we ourselves desire that your judgment should be confirmed
by proper sanction. It may be that you are surprised, and at a loss to
understand the meaning of this introduction to my present address. The
cause of it I will not hesitate to explain without reserve. I confess,
then, that on reading your records I perceived, by the highly eulogistic
testimony which they bear to Eusebius, bishop of Caesarea, whom I have
myself long well known and esteemed for his learning and moderation, that
you are strongly attached to him, and desire to appropriate him as your
own. What thoughts, then, do you suppose that I entertain on this subject,
desirous as I am to seek for and act on the strict principles of right?
What anxiety do you imagine this desire of yours has caused me? O holy
faith, who givest us in our Savior's words and precepts a model, as it
were, of what our life should be, how hardly wouldst thou thyself resist
the sins of men, were it not that thou refusest to subserve the purposes
of gain! In my own judgment, he whose first object is the maintenance of
peace, seems to be superior to Victory herself; and where a right and honorable
course lies open to one's choice, surely no one would hesitate to adopt
it. I ask then, brethren, why do we so decide as to inflict an injury on
others by our choice? Why do we covet those objects which will destroy
the credit of our own reputation? I myself highly esteem the individual
whom ye judge worthy of your respect and affection: notwithstanding, it
cannot be right that those principles should be entirely disregarded which
should be authoritative and binding on all alike, so that each should not
be content with his own circumstances, and all enjoy their proper privileges:
nor can it be right, in considering the claims of rival candidates, to
suppose but that not one only, but many, may appear worthy of comparison
with this person. For as long as no violence or harshness are suffered
to disturb the dignities of the church, they continue to be on an equal
footing, and worthy of the same consideration everywhere. Nor is it reasonable
that an inquiry into the qualifications of this one should be made to the
detriment of others; since the judgment of all churches, whether reckoned
of greater or less importance in themselves, is equally capable of receiving
and maintaining the divine ordinances, so that one is in no way inferior
to another, if we will but boldly declare the truth, in regard to that
standard of practice which is common to all. If this be so, we must say
that you will be chargeable, not with retaining this prelate, but with
wrongfully removing him; your conduct will be characterized rather by violence
than justice; and whatever may be generally thought by others, I dare clearly
and boldly affirm that this measure will furnish ground of accusation against
you, and will provoke factious disturbances of the most mischievous kind:
for even timid flocks can show the use and power of their teeth, when the
watchful care of their shepherd declines, and they find themselves bereft
of his accustomed guidance. If this then be really so, if I am not deceived
in my judgment, let this, brethren, be your first consideration, for many
and important considerations will immediately present themselves, whether,
should you persist in your intention, that mutual kindly feeling and affection
which should subsist among you will suffer no diminution? In the next place,
remember that he, who came among you for the purpose of offering disinterested
counsel, now enjoys the reward which is due to him in the judgment of heaven;
for he has received no ordinary recompense in the high testimony you have
borne to his equitable conduct. Lastly, in accordance with your usual sound
judgment, do ye exhibit a becoming diligence in selecting the person of
whom you stand in need, carefully avoiding all factious and tumultuous
clamor; for such clamor is always wrong, and from the collision of discordant
elements both sparks and flame will arise. I protest, as I desire to please
God and you, and to enjoy a happiness commensurate with your kind wishes,
that I love you, and the quiet haven of your gentleness, now that you have
cast from you that which defiled, and received in its place at once sound
morality and concord, firmly planting in the vessel the sacred standard,
and guided, as one may say, by a helm of iron in your course onward to
the light of heaven. Receive then on board that merchandise which is incorruptible,
since, as it were, all bilge water has been drained from the vessel; and
be careful henceforth so to secure the enjoyment of all your present blessing,
that you may not seem at any future time either to have determined any
measure on the impulse of inconsiderate or ill directed zeal, or in the
first instance rashly to have entered on an inexpedient course. May God
preserve you, beloved brethren!"
CHAPTER LXI: The Emperor's Letter
to Eusebius praising him for refusing the Bishopric of Antioch.
The Emperor's Letter to me on my
refusing the Bishopric of Antioch.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
"I have most carefully perused your
letter, and perceive that you have strictly conformed to the rule enjoined
by the discipline of the Church. Now to abide by that which appears at
the same time pleasing to God, and accordant with apostolical tradition,
is a proof of true piety. You have reason to deem yourself happy on this
behalf, that you are counted worthy, in the judgment, I may say, of all
the world, to have the oversight of any church. For the desire which all
feel to claim you for their own, undoubtedly enhances your enviable fortune
in this respect. Notwithstanding, your Prudence whose resolve it is to
observe the ordinances of God and the apostolic canon of the Church, has
done excellently well in declining the bishopric of the church at Antioch,
and desiring to continue in that church of which you first received the
oversight by the will of God. I have written on this subject to the people
of Antioch, and also to your colleagues in the ministry who had themselves
consulted me in regard to this question; on reading which letters, your
Holiness will easily discern, that, inasmuch as justice itself opposed
their claims, I have written to them under divine direction. It will be
necessary that your Prudence should be present at their conference, in
order that this decision may be ratified in the church at Antioch. God
preserve you, beloved brother!"
CHAPTER LXII: Constantine's Letter
to the Council, depreciating the Removal of Eusebius from Coesarea.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to Theodotus, Theodorus, Narcissus, Aetius, Alpheus, and the rest of the
bishops who are at Antioch.
"I have perused the letters written
by your Prudences, and highly approve of the wise resolution of your colleague
in the ministry, Eusebius. Having, moreover, been informed of the circumstances
of the case, partly by your letters, partly by those of our illustrious
counts, Acacius and Strategius, after sufficient investigation I have written
to the people of Antioch, suggesting the course which will be at once pleasing
to God and advantageous for the Church. A copy of this I have ordered to
be subjoined to this present letter, in order that ye yourselves may know
what I thought fit, as an advocate of the cause of justice, to write to
that people: since I find in your letter this proposal, that, in consonance
with the choice of the people, sanctioned by your own desire, Eusebius
the holy bishop of Caesarea should preside over and take the charge of
the church at Antioch. Now the letters of Eusebius himself on this subject
appeared to be strictly accordant with the order prescribed by the Church.
Nevertheless it is expedient that your Prudences should be made acquainted
with my opinion also. For I am informed that Euphronius the presbyter,
who is a citizen of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and George of Arethusa, likewise
a presbyter, and appointed to that office by Alexander at Alexandria, are
men of tried faith. It was right, therefore, to intimate to your Prudences,
that in proposing these men and any others whom you may deem worthy the
episcopal dignity, you should decide this question in a manner conformable
to the tradition of the apostles. For in that case, your Prudences will
be able, according to the rule of the Church and apostolic tradition, to
direct this election in the manner which true ecclesiastical discipline
shall prescribe. God preserve you, beloved brethren!"
CHAPTER LXIII: How he displayed his
Zeal for the Extirpation of Heresies.
Such were the exhortations to do
all things to the honor of the divine religion which the emperor addressed
to the rulers of the churches. Having by these means banished dissension,
and reduced the Church of God to a state of uniform harmony, he next proceeded
to a different duty, feeling it incumbent on him to extirpate another sort
of impious persons, as pernicious enemies of the human race. These were
pests of society, who ruined whole cities under the specious garb of religious
decorum; men whom our Savior's warning voice somewhere terms false prophets
and ravenous wolves: "Beware of false prophets, which will come to you
in sheep's clothing, but inwardly are ravening wolves. By their fruits
ye shall know them." Accordingly, by an order transmitted to the governors
of the several provinces, he effectually banished all such offenders. In
addition to this ordinance he addressed to them personally a severely awakening
admonition, exhorting them to an earnest repentance, that they might still
find a haven of safety in the true Church of God. Hear, then, in what manner
he addressed them in this letter.
CHAPTER LXIV: Constantine's Edict
against the Heretics.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to the heretics.
"Understand now, by this present
statute, ye Novatians, Valentinians, Marcionites, Paulians, ye who are
called Cataphrygians, and all ye who devise and support heresies by means
of your private assemblies, with what a tissue of falsehood and vanity,
with what destructive and venomous errors, your doctrines are inseparably
interwoven; so that through you the healthy soul is stricken with disease,
and the living becomes the prey of everlasting death. Ye haters and enemies
of truth and life, in league with destruction! All your counsels are opposed
to the truth, but familiar with deeds of baseness; full of absurdities
and fictions: and by these ye frame falsehoods, oppress the innocent, and
withhold the light from them that believe. Ever trespassing under the mask
of godliness, ye fill all things with defilement: ye pierce the pure and
guileless conscience with deadly wounds, while ye withdraw, one may almost
say, the very light of day from the eyes of men. But why should I particularize,
when to speak of your criminality as it deserves demands more time and
leisure than I can give? For so long and unmeasured is the catalogue of
your offenses, so hateful and altogether atrocious are they, that a single
day would not suffice to recount them all. And, indeed, it is well to turn
one's ears and eyes from such a subject, lest by a description of each
particular evil, the pure sincerity and freshness of one's own faith be
impaired. Why then do I still bear with such abounding evil; especially
since this protracted clemency is the cause that some who were sound are
become tainted with this pestilent disease? Why not at once strike, as
it were, at the root of so great a mischief by a public manifestation of
CHAPTER LXV: The Heretics are deprived
of their Meeting Places.
"FORASMUCH, then, as it is no longer
possible to bear with your pernicious errors, we give warning by this present
statute that none of you henceforth presume to assemble yourselves together.
We have directed, accordingly, that you be deprived of all the houses in
which you are accustomed to hold your assemblies: and our care in this
respect extends so far as to forbid the holding of your superstitious and
senseless meetings, not in public merely, but in any private house or place
whatsoever. Let those of you, therefore, who are desirous of embracing
the true and pure religion, take the far better course of entering the
catholic Church, and uniting with it in holy fellowship, whereby you will
be enabled to arrive at the knowledge of the truth. In any case, the delusions
of your perverted understandings must entirely cease to mingle with and
mar the felicity of our present times: I mean the impious and wretched
double mindedness of heretics and schismatics. For it is an object worthy
of that prosperity which we enjoy through the favor of God, to endeavor
to bring back those who in time past were living in the hope of future
blessing, from all irregularity and error to the right path, from darkness
to light, from vanity to truth, from death to salvation. And in order that
this remedy may be applied with effectual power, we have commanded, as
before said, that you be positively deprived of every gathering point for
your superstitious meetings, I mean all the houses of prayer, if such be
worthy of the name, which belong to heretics, and that these be made over
without delay to the catholic Church; that any other places be confiscated
to the public service, and no facility whatever be left for any future
gathering; in order that from this day forward none of your unlawful assemblies
may presume to appear in any public or private place. Let this edict be
CHAPTER LXVI: How on the Discovery
of Prohibited Books among the Heretics, Many of them return to the Catholic
THUS were the lurking places of the
heretics broken up by the emperor's command, and the savage beasts they
harbored (I mean the chief authors of their impious doctrines) driven to
flight. Of those whom they had deceived, some, intimidated by the emperor's
threats, disguising their real sentiments, crept secretly into the Church.
For since the law directed that search should be made for their books,
those of them who practiced evil and forbidden arts were detected, and,
these were ready to secure their own safety by dissimulation of every kind.
Others, however, there were, who voluntarily and with real sincerity embraced
a better hope. Meantime the prelates of the several churches. continued
to make strict inquiry, utterly rejecting those who attempted an entrance
under the specious disguise of false pretenses, while those who came with
sincerity of purpose were proved for a time, and after sufficient trial
numbered with the congregation. Such was the treatment of those who stood
charged with rank heresy: those, however, who maintained no impious doctrine,
but had been separated from the one body through the influence of schismatic
advisers, were received without difficulty or delay. Accordingly, numbers
thus revisited, as it were, their own country after an absence in a foreign
land, and acknowledged the Church as a mother from whom they had wandered
long, and to whom they now returned with joy and gladness. Thus the members
of the entire body became united, and compacted in one harmonious whole;
and the one catholic Church, at unity with itself, shone with full luster,
while no heretical or schismatic body anywhere continued to exist. And
the credit of having achieved this mighty work our Heaven-protected emperor
alone, of all who had gone before him, was able to attribute to himself.
CHAPTER I: How he honored Many by
Presents and Promotions.
WHILE thus variously engaged in promoting
Savior's doctrine, the emperor was far from neglecting secular affairs;
but in this respect also he was unwearied in bestowing benefits of every
kind and in quick succession on the people of every province. On the one
hand he manifested a paternal anxiety for the general welfare of his subjects;
on the other he would distinguish individuals of his own acquaintance with
various marks of honor; conferring his benefits in every instance in a
truly noble spirit. No one could request a favor from the emperor, and
fail of obtaining what he sought: no one expected a boon from him, and
found that expectation vain. Some received presents in money, others in
land; some obtained the Praetorian prefecture, others senatorial, others
again consular rank: many were appointed provincial governors: others were
made counts of the first, second, or third order: in numberless instances
the title of Most Illustrious and many other distinctions were conferred;
for the emperor devised new dignities, that he might invest a larger number
with the tokens of his favor.
CHAPTER II: Remission of a Fourth
Part of the Taxes.
THE extent to which he studied the
general happiness and prosperity may be understood from a single instance
most beneficial and universal in its application, and still gratefully
remembered. He remitted a fourth part of the yearly tribute paid for land,
and bestowed it on the owners of the soil; so that if we compute this yearly
reduction, we shall find that the cultivators enjoyed their produce free
of tribute every fourth year. This privilege being established by law,
and secured for the time to come, has given occasion for the emperor's
beneficence to be held, not merely by the then present generation, but
by their children and descendants, in perpetual remembrance.
CHAPTER III: Equalization of the
More Oppressive Taxes.
AND whereas some persons found fault
with the surveys of land which had been made under former emperors, and
complained that their property was unduly burdened; acting in this case
also on the principles of justice, he sent commissioners to equalize the
tribute, and to secure immunity to those who had made this. appeal.
CHAPTER IV: His Liberality, from
his private Resources, to the Losers in Suits of a Pecuniary Nature.
IN cases of judicial arbitration,
in order that the loser by his decision might not quit his presence less
contented than the victorious litigant, he himself bestowed, and from his
own private means in some cases lands, in other money, on the defeated
party. In this manner he took care that the loser, as having appeared in
his in his presence, should be as well satisfied as the gainer of the cause;
for he considered that non one ought in any case to retire dejected and
sorrowful from an interview with such a price. Thus it happened that both
parties returned from the scene of trial with glad and cheerful countenances,
while the emperor's noble-minded liberality excited universal admiration.
CHAPTER V: Conquest of the Scythians
defeated through the Sign of Our Savior.
AND why should I relate even briefly
and incidentally, how he subjected barbarous nations to the Roman power;
how he was the first who subjugated the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes,
which had never learned submission, and compelled them, how unwilling so
ever, to own the sovereignty of Rome? For the emperors who preceded him
had actually rendered tribute to the Scythians: and Romans, by an annual
payment, had confessed themselves servants to barbarians; an indignity
which our emperor could no longer bear, nor think it consistent with his
victorious career to continue the payment his predecessors had made. Accordingly,
with full confidence in his Savior's aid he raised his conquering standard
against these enemies also, and soon reduced them all to obedience; coercing
by military force those who fiercely resisted his authority, while, on
the other hand, he conciliated the rest by wisely conducted embassies,
and reclaimed them to a state of order and civilization from their lawless
and savage life. Thus the Scythians at length learned to acknowledge subjection
to the power of Rome.
CHAPTER VI: Conquest of the Sarmatians,
consequent on the Rebellion of their Slaves.
WITH respect to the Sarmatians, God
himself brought them beneath the rule of Constantine, and subdued a nation
swelling with barbaric pride in the following manner. Being attacked by
the Scythians, they had entrusted their slaves with arms, in order to repel
the enemy. These slaves first overcame the invaders and then, turning their
weapons against their masters, drove them all from their native land. The
expelled Sarmatians found that their only hope of safety was in Constantine's
protection: and he, whose familiar habit it was to save men's lives, received
them all within the confines of the Roman empire. Those who were capable
of serving he incorporated with his own troops: to the rest he allotted
lands to cultivate for their own support so that they themselves acknowledged
that their past misfortune had produced a happy result in that they now
enjoyed Roman liberty in place of savage barbarism. In this manner God
added to his dominions many and various barbaric tribes.
CHAPTER VII: Ambassadors from Different
Barbarous Nations receive Presents from the Emperor.
INDEED, ambassadors were continually
arriving from all nations, bringing for his acceptance their most precious
gifts. So that I myself have sometimes stood near the entrance of the imperial
palace, and observed a noticeable array of barbarians in attendance, differing
from each other in costume and decorations, and equally unlike in the fashion
of their hair and beard. Their aspect truculent and terrible, their bodily
stature prodigious: some of a red complexion, others white as snow, others
again of an intermediate color. For in the number of those I have referred
to might be seen specimens of the Blemmyan tribes, of the Indians, and
the Ethiopians, " that widely- divided race, remotest of mankind." All
these in due succession, like some painted pageant, presented to the emperor
those gifts which their own nation held in most esteem; some offering crowns
of goldments embroidered with gold and flowers: some appeared with horses,
others with shields and long spears, with arrows and bows thereby offering
their services and alliance for the emperors acceptance. These presents
he separately received and carefully laid aside, acknowledging them in
so munificent a manner as at once to enrich those who bore them. He also
honored the noblest among them with Roman offices of dignity; so that many
of them thenceforward preferred to continue their residence among us, and
felt no desire to revisit their native land.
CHAPTER VIII: That he wrote also
to the King of Persia who had sent him an Embassy, on Behalf of the
Christians in his Realm.
THE king of the Persians also having
testified a desire to form an alliance with Constantine, by sending an
embassy and presents as assurances of peace and friendship, the emperor,
in negotiating this treaty, far surpassed the monarch who had first done
him honor, in the magnificence with which he acknowledged his gifts. Having
heard, too, that there were many churches of God in Persia, and that large
numbers there were gathered into the fold of Christ, full of joy at this
intelligence, he resolved to extend his anxiety for the general welfare
to that country also, as one whose aim it was to care for all alike in
CHAPTER IX: Letter of Constantine
Augustus to Sapor, King of the Persians, containing a truly Pious Confession
of God and Christ.
Copy of his Letter to the King of
"By keeping the Divine faith, I am
made a partaker of the light of truth: guided by the light of truth, I
advance in the knowledge of the Divine faith. Hence it is that, as my actions
themselves evince, I profess the most holy religion; and this worship I
declare to be that which teaches me deeper acquaintance with the most holy
God; aided by whose Divine power, beginning from the very borders of the
ocean, I have aroused each nation of the world in succession to a well-grounded
hope of security; so that those which, groaning in servitude to the most
cruel tyrants and yielding to the pressure of their daily sufferings, had
well nigh been utterly destroyed, have been restored through my agency
to a far happier state. This God I confess that I hold in unceasing honor
and remembrance; this God I delight to contemplate with pure and guileless
thoughts in the height of his glory.
CHAPTER X: The Writer denounces Idols,
and glorifies God.
"THIS God I invoke with bended knees,
and recoil with horror from the blood of sacrifices from their foul and
detestable odors, and from every earth-born magic fire: for the profane
and impious superstitions which are defiled by these rites have cast down
and consigned to perdition many, nay, whole nations of the Gentile world.
For he who is Lord of all cannot endure that those blessings which, in
his own loving- kindness and consideration of the wants of men he has revealed
for the rise of all, should be perverted to serve the lusts of any. His
only demand from man is purity of mind and an undefiled spirit; and by
this standard he weighs the actions of virtue and godliness. For his pleasure
is in works of moderation and gentleness: he loves the meek, and hates
the turbulent spirit: delighting in faith, he chastises unbelief: by him
all presumptuous power is broken down, and he avenges the insolence of
the proud. While the arrogant and haughty are utterly overthrown, he requires
the humble and forgiving with deserved rewards: even so does he highly
honor and strengthen with his special help a kingdom justly governed, and
maintains a prudent king in the tranquillity of peace.
CHAPTER XI: Against the Tyrants and
Persecutors; and on the Captivity of Valerian.
"I CANNOT, then, my brother believe
that I err in acknowledging this one God, the author and parent of all
things: whom many of my predecessors in power, led astray by the madness
of error, have ventured to deny, but who were all visited with a retribution
so terrible and so destructive, that all succeeding generations have held
up their calamities as the most effectual warning to any who desire to
follow in their stops. Of the number of these I believe him to have been,
whom the lightning stroke of Divine vengeance drove forth from hence, and
banished to your dominions and whose disgrace contributed to the fame of
your celebrated triumph.
CHAPTER XII: He declares that, having
witnessed the Fall of the Persecutors, he now rejoices at the Peace enjoyed
by the Christians.
"AND it is surely a happy circumstance
that the punishment of such persons as I have described should have been
publicly manifested in our own times. For I myself have witnessed the end
of those who lately harassed the worshipers of God by their impious edict.
And for this abundant thanksgivings are due to God that through his excellent
Providence all men who observe his holy laws are gladdened by the renewed
enjoyment of peace. Hence I am fully persuaded that everything is in the
best and safest posture, since God is vouchsafing, through the influence
of their pure and faithful religious service, and their unity of judgment
respecting his Divine character, to gather all men to himself.
CHAPTER XIII: He bespeaks his Affectionate
Interest for he Christians in his Country.
"IMAGINE, then, with what joy I heard
tidings so accordant with my desire, that the fairest districts of Persia
are filled with those men on whose behalf alone I am at present speaking,
I mean the Christians. I pray, therefore, that both you and they may enjoy
abundant prosperity, and that your blessings and theirs may be in equal
measure; for thus you will experience the mercy and favor of that God who
is the Lord and Father of all. And now, because your power is great, I
commend these persons to your protection; because your piety is eminent,
I commit them to your care. Cherish them with your wonted humanity and
kindness; for by this proof of faith you will secure an immeasurable benefit
both to yourself and us."
CHAPTER XIV: How the Zealous Prayers
of Constantine procured Peace to the Christians.
THUS, the nations of the world being
everywhere guided in their course as it were by the skill of a single pilot,
and acquiescing in the administration of him who governed as the servant
of God, the peace of the Roman empire continued undisturbed, and all classes
of his subjects enjoyed a life of tranquillity and repose. At the same
time the emperor, who was convinced that the prayers of godly men contributed
powerfully to the maintenance of the public welfare, felt himself constrained
zealously to seek such prayers and not only himself implored the help and
favor of God, but charged the prelates of the churches to offer supplications
on his behalf.
CHAPTER XV: He causes himself to
be represented on his Coins, and in his Portraits, in the Attitude of Prayer.
How deeply his soul was impressed
by the power of divine faith may be understood from the circumstance that
he directed his likeness to be stamped on the golden coin of the empire
with the eyes uplifted as in the posture of prayer to God: and this money
became current throughout the Roman world. His portrait also at full length
was placed over the entrance gates of the palaces in some cities, the eyes
upraised to heaven, and the hands outspread as if in prayer.
CHAPTER XVI: He forbids by Law the
Plating his Likeness in Idol Temples.
IN this manner he represented himself,
even through the medium of painting, as habitually engaged in prayer to
God. At the same time he forbade, by an express enactment, the setting
up of any resemblance of himself in any idol temple, that not even the
mere lineaments of his person might receive contamination from the error
of forbidden superstition.
CHAPTER XVII: Of his Prayers in the
Palace, and his Reading the Holy Scriptures.
STILL nobler proofs of his piety
might be discerned by those who marked how he modeled as it were his very
palace into a church of God, and himself afforded a pattern of zeal to
those assembled therein: how he took the sacred scriptures into his hands,
and devoted himself to the study of those divinely inspired oracles; after
which he would offer up regular prayers with all the members of his imperial
CHAPTER XVIII: He enjoins the General
Observance of the Lord's Day, and the Day of Preparation.
HE ordained, too, that one day should
be regarded as a special occasion for prayer: I mean that which is truly
the first and chief of all, the day of our Lord and Savior. The entire
care of his household was entrusted to deacons and other ministers consecrated
to the service of God, and distinguished by gravity of life and every other
virtue: while his trusty body guard, strong in affection and fidelity to
his person, found in their emperor an instructor in the practice of piety,
and like him held the Lord's salutary day in honor and performed on that
day the devotions which he loved. The same observance was recommended by
this blessed prince to all classes of his subjects: his earnest desire
being gradually to lead all mankind to the worship of God. Accordingly
he enjoined on all the subjects of the Roman empire to observe the Lord's
day, as a day of rest, and also to honor the day which precedes the Sabbath;
in memory, I suppose, of what the Savior of mankind is recorded to have
achieved on that day. And since his desire was to teach his whole army
zealously to honor the Savior's day (which derives its name from light,
and from the sun), he freely granted to those among them who were partakers
of the divine faith, leisure for attendance on the services of the Church
of God, in order that they might be able, without impediment, to perform
their religious worship.
CHAPTER XIX: That he directed even
his Pagan Soldiers to pray on the Lord's Day.
WITH regard to those who were as
yet ignorant of divine truth, he provided by a second statute that they
should appear on each Lord's day on an open plain near the city, and there,
at a given signal, offer to God with one accord a prayer which they had
previously learnt. He admonished them that their confidence should not
rest in their spears, or armor, or bodily strength, but that they should
acknowledge the supreme God as the giver of every good, and of victory
itself; to whom they were bound to offer their prayers with due regularity,
uplifting on whom they should call as the Author of victory, their Preserver,
Guardian, and Helper. The emperor himself prescribed the prayer to be used
by all his troops, commanding them, to pronounce the following words in
the Latin tongue:
CHAPTER XX: The Form of Prayer given
by Constantine to his Soldiers.
"WE acknowledge thee the only God:
we own thee, as our King and implore thy succor. By thy favor have we gotten
the victory through thee are we mightier than our enemies. We render thanks
for thy past benefits, and trust thee for future blessings. Together we
pray to thee, and beseech thee long to preserve to us, safe and triumphant,
our emperor Constantine and his pious sons." by his troops, and such the
prayer they were instructed to offer up to God.
CHAPTER XXI: He orders the Sign of
the Savior's Cross to be engraven on his Soldiers' Shields.
AND not only so, but he also caused
the sign of the salutary trophy to be impressed on the very shields of
his soldiers; and commanded that his embattled forces should be preceded
in their march, not by golden images, as heretofore, but only by the standard
of the cross.
CHAPTER XXII: Of his Zeal in Prayer,
and the Honor he paid to the Feast of Easter.
THE emperor himself, as a sharer
in the holy mysteries of our religion, would seclude himself daily at a
stated hour in the innermost chambers of his palace; and there in solitary
converse with his God, would kneel in humble supplication, and entreat
the blessings of which he stood in need. But especially at the salutary
feast of Easter, his religious diligence was redoubled; he fulfilled as
it were the duties of a hierophant with every energy of his mind and body,
and outvied all others in the zealous celebration of this feast. He changed,
too, the holy night vigil into a brightness like that of day, by causing
waxen tapers of great length to be lighted throughout the city: besides
which, torches everywhere diffused their light, so as to impart to this
mystic vigil a brilliant splendor beyond that of day. As soon as day itself
returned, in imitation of our Savior's gracious acts, he opened a liberal
hand to his subjects of every nation, province, and people, and lavished
abundant bounties on all.
CHAPTER XXIII: How he forbade Idolatrous
Worship, but honored Martyrs and the Church Festivals.
SUCH were his sacred ministrations
in the service of his God. At the same time, his subjects, both civil and
military, throughout the empire, found a barrier everywhere opposed against
idol worship, and every kind of sacrifice forbidden. A statute was also
passed, enjoining the due observance of the Lord's day, and transmitted
to the governors of every province, who undertook, at the emperors command,
to respect the days commemorative of martyrs, and duly to emperors entire
CHAPTER XXIV: That he described himself
to be a Bishop, in Charge of Affairs External to the Church.
HENCE it was not without reason that
once, on the occasion of his entertaining a company of bishops, he let
fall the expression, "that he himself too was a bishop," addressing them
in my heating in the following words: "You are bishops whose jurisdiction
is within the Church: I also am a bishop, ordained by God to overlook whatever
is external to the Church." (1) And copal care, and exhorted them as far
as in him lay to follow a godly life.
CHAPTER XXV: Prohibition of Sacrifices,
of Mystic Rites, Combats of Gladiators, also the Licentious Worship of
CONSISTENTLY with this zeal he issued
successive laws and ordinances, forbidding any to offer sacrifice to idols,
to consult diviners, to erect images, or to pollute the cities with the
sanguinary combats of gladiators. And inasmuch as the Egyptians, especially
those of Alexandria, had been accustomed to honor their river through a
priesthood composed of effeminate men, a further law was passed commanding
the extermination of the whole class as vicious, that no one might thenceforward
be found tainted with the like impurity. And whereas the superstitious
inhabitants apprehended that the river would in consequence withhold its
customary flood, God himself showed his approval of the emperor's law by
ordering all things in a manner quite contrary to their expectation. For
those who had defiled the cities by their vicious conduct were indeed seen
no more; but the river, as if the country through rose higher than ever
before, overflowed the country with its fertilizing streams: thus effectually
admonishing the deluded people to turn from impure men, and ascribe their
prosperity to him alone who is the Giver of all good.
CHAPTER XXVI: Amendment of the Law
in Force respecting Childless Persons, and of the Law of Wills.
So numerous, indeed, were the benefits
of this kind conferred by the emperor on every province, as to afford ample
materials to any who might desire to record them. Among these may be instanced
those laws which he entirely remodeled, and established on a more equitable
basis: the nature of which reform may be briefly and easily explained.
The childless were punished under the old law with the forfeiture of their
hereditary property a merciless stature, which dealt with them as positive
criminals. The emperor annulled this, and decreed that those so circumstanced
should inherit. He regulated the question on the principles of equity and
justice, arguing willful transgressors should be chastised with the penalties
their crimes deserve. But nature herself denies children to many, who long,
perhaps, for a numerous offspring, but are disappointed of their hope by
bodily infirmity. Others continue childless, not from any dislike of posterity,
but because their ardent love of philosophy renders them averse to the
conjugal union. Women, too, consecrated to the service of God, have maintained
a pure and spotless virginity, and have devoted themselves, soul and body
to a life of entire chastity and holiness. What then? Should this conduct
be deemed worthy of punishment, or rather of admiration and praise; since
to desire this state is in itself honorable, and to maintain it surpasses
the power of unassisted nature? Surely those whose bodily infirmity destroys
their hope of offspring are worthy of pity, not of punishment: and he who
devotes himself to a higher object calls not for chastisement, but especial
admiration. On such regard to the wills of dying persons, the old laws
had ordained that they should be expressed, even at the latest breath,
as it were, in certain definite words, and had prescribed the exact form
and terms to be employed. This practice had occasioned many fraudulent
attempts to hinder the intentions of the deceased from being carried into
full effect. As soon as our emperor was aware of these abuses, he reformed
this law likewise, declaring that a dying man ought to be permitted to
indicate his last wishes in as few words as possible, and in whatever terms
he pleased; and to set forth his will in any written form; or even by word
of mouth, provided it were done in the presence of proper witnesses, who
might be competent faithfully to discharge their trust.
CHAPTER XXVII: Among Other Enactments,
he decrees that no Christian shall slave to a Jew, and affirms the Validity
of the Decisions of Councils.
HE also passed a law to the effect
that no Christian should remain in servitude to a Jewish master, on the
ground that it could not be right that those whom the Savior had ransomed
should be subjected to the yoke of slavery by a people who had slain the
prophets and the Lord himself. If any were found hereafter in these circumstances,
the slave was to be set at liberty, and the master punished by a fine.
He likewise added the sanction of
his authority to the decisions of bishops passed at their synods, and forbade
the provincial governors to annul any of their decrees: for he rated the
priests of God at a higher value than any judge whatever. These and a thousand
similar provisions did he enact for the benefit of his subjects; but there
is not time now to give a special description of them, such as might convey
an accurate idea of his imperial wisdom in these respects: nor need I now
relate at length, how, as a devoted servant of the Supreme God, he employed
himself from morning until night in seeking objects for his beneficence,
and how equally and universally kind he was to all.
CHAPTER XXVIII: His Gifts to the
Churches, and Bounties to Virgins and to the Poor.
His liberality, however, was most
especially exercised on behalf of the churches of God. In some cases he
granted lands, in others he issued supplies of food for the support of
the poor, of orphan children, and widows; besides which, he evinced much
care and forethought in fully providing the naked and destitute with clothing.
He distinguished, however, with most special honor those who had devoted
their lives to the practice of Divine philosophy. Hence his respect, little
short of veneration, for God's most holy and ever virgin choir: for he
felt assured that the God to whom such persons devoted themselves was himself
an inmate of their souls.
CHAPTER XXIX: Of Constantine's Discourses
FOR himself, he sometimes passed
sleepless nights in furnishing his mind with Divine knowledge: and much
of his time was spent in composing discourses, many of which he delivered
in public; for he conceived it to be incumbent on him to govern his subjects
by appealing to their reason, and to secure in all respects a rational
obedience to his authority. Hence he would sometimes himself evoke an assembly,
on which occasions vast multitudes attended, in the hope of hearing an
emperor sustain the part of a philosopher. And if in the course of his
speech any occasion offered of touching on sacred topics, he immediately
stood erect, and with a grave aspect and subdued tone of voice seemed reverently
to be initiating his auditors in the mysteries of the Divine doctrine:
and when they greeted him with shouts of acclamation, he would direct them
by his gestures to raise their eyes to heaven, and reserve their admiration
for the Supreme King alone, and honor him with adoration and praise. He
usually divided the subjects of his address, first thoroughly exposing
the error of polytheism, and proving the superstition of the Gentiles to
be mere fraud, and a cloak for impiety. He then would assert the sole sovereignty
of God: passing thence to his Providence, both general and particular.
Proceeding next to the dispensation of salvation, he would demonstrate
its necessity, and adaptation to the nature of the case; entering next
in order on the doctrine of the Divine judgment. And here especially he
appealed most powerfully to the consciences of his hearers, while he denounced
the rapacious and violent, and those who were slaves to an inordinate thirst
of gain. Nay, he caused some of his own acquaintance who were present to
feel the severe lash of his words, and to stand with downcast eyes in the
consciousness of guilt, while he testified against them in the clearest
and most impressive terms that they would have an account to render of
their deeds to God. He reminded them that God himself had given him the
empire of the world, portions of which he himself, acting on the same Divine
principle, had entrusted to their government; but that all would in due
time be alike summoned to give account of their actions to the Supreme
Sovereign of all. Such was his constant testimony; such his admonition
and instruction. And he himself both felt and uttered these sentiments
in the genuine confidence of faith: but his hearers were little disposed
to learn, and deaf to sound advice; receiving his words indeed with loud
applause, but induced by insatiable cupidity practically to disregard them.
CHAPTER XXX: That he marked out before
a Covetous Man the Measure of a Grave, and so put him to Shame.
ON one occasion he thus personally
addressed one of his courtiers: "How far, my friend, are we to carry our
inordinate desires?" Then drawing the dimensions of a human figure with
a lance which he happened to have in his hand, he continued: "Though thou
couldst obtain the whole wealth of this world, yea, the whole world itself,
thou wilt carry with thee at last no more than this little spot which I
have marked out, if indeed even that be thine." Such were the words and
actions of this blessed prince; and though at the time he failed to reclaim
any from their evil ways, yet notwithstanding the course of events afforded
evident proof that his admonitions were more like Divine prophecies than
CHAPTER XXXI: That he was derided
because of his Excessive Clemency.
MEANTIME, since there was no fear
of capital punishment to deter from the commission of crime, for the emperor
himself was uniformly inclined to clemency, and none of the provincial
governors visited offenses with their proper penalties, this state of things
drew with it no small degree of blame on the general administration of
the empire; whether justly or not, let every one form his own judgment:
for myself, I only ask permission to record the fact.
CHAPTER XXXII: Of Constantine's Oration
which he wrote to the Assembly of the Saints.
THE emperor was in the habit of composing
his orations in the Latin tongue, from which they were translated into
Greek by interpreters appointed for this special service. One of the discourses
thus translated I intend to annex, by way of specimen, to this present
work, that one, I mean, which he inscribed "To the assembly of the saints,"
and dedicated to the Church of God, that no one may have ground for deeming
my testimony on this head mere empty praise.
CHAPTER XXXIII: How he listened standing
to Eusebius' Declamation in Honor of our Savior's Sepulcher.
ONE act, however, I must by no means
omit to record, which this admirable prince performed in my own presence.
On one occasion, emboldened by the confident assurance I entertained of
his piety, I had begged permission to pronounce a discourse on the subject
of our Savior's sepulcher in his hearing. With this request he most readily
complied, and in the midst of a large number of auditors, in the interior
of the palace itself, he stood and listened with the rest. I entreated
him, but in vain, to seat himself on the imperial throne which stood near:
he continued with fixed attention to weigh the topics of my discourse,
and gave his own testimony to the truth of the theological doctrines it
contained. After some time had passed, the oration being of considerable
length, I was myself desirous of concluding; but this he would not permit,
and exhorted me to proceed to the very end. On my again entreating him
to sit, he in his turn was displeased and said that it was not right to
listen in a careless manner to the discussion of doctrines relating to
God; and again, that this posture was good and profitable to himself, since
it was reverent to stand while listening to sacred truths. Having, therefore,
concluded my discourse, I returned home, and resumed my usual occupations.
CHAPTER XXXIV: That he wrote to Eusebius
respecting Easter, and respecting Copies of the Holy Scriptures.
EVER careful for the welfare of the
churches of God, the emperor addressed me personally in a letter on the
means of providing copies of the inspired oracles, and also on the subject
of the most holy feast of Easter. For I had myself dedicated to him an
exposition of the mystical import of that feast; and the manner in which
he honored me with a reply may be understood by any one who reads the following
CHAPTER XXXV: Constantine's Letter
to Eusebius, in praise of his Discourse concerning Easter.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
"It is indeed an arduous task, and
beyond the power of language itself, worthily to treat of the mysteries
of Christ, and to explain in a fitting manner the controversy respecting
the feast of Easter, its origin as well as its precious and toilsome accomplishment.
For it is not in the power even of those who are able to apprehend them,
adequately to describe the things of God. I am, notwithstanding, filled
with admiration of your learning and zeal, and have not only myself read
your work with pleasure, but have given directions, according to your own
desire, that it be communicated to many sincere followers of our holy religion.
Seeing, then, with what pleasure we receive favors of this kind from your
Sagacity, be pleased to gladden us more frequently with those compositions,
to the practice of which, indeed, you confess yourself to have been trained
from an early period, so that I am urging a willing man, as they say, in
exhorting you to your customary pursuits. And certainly the high and confident
judgment we entertain is a proof that the person who has translated your
writings into the Latin tongue is in no respect incompetent to the task,
impossible though it be that such version should fully equal the excellence
of the works themselves. God preserve you, beloved brother." Such was his
letter on this subject: and that which related to the providing of copies
of the Scriptures for reading in the churches was to the following purport.
CHAPTER XXXVI: Constantine' s Letter
to Eusebius on the Preparation of Copies of the Holy Scriptures.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
"It happens, through the favoring
providence of God our Savior, that great numbers have united themselves
to the most holy church in the city which is called by my name. It seems,
therefore, highly requisite, since that city is rapidly advancing in prosperity
in all other respects, that the number of churches should also he increased.
Do you, therefore, receive with all readiness my determination on this
behalf. I have thought it expedient to instruct your Prudence to order
fifty copies of the sacred Scriptures, the provision and use of which you
know to be most needful for the instruction of the Church, to be written
on prepared parchment in a legible manner, and in a convenient, portable
form, by professional transcribers thoroughly practiced in their art. The
catholicus of the diocese has also received instructions by letter from
our Clemency to be careful to furnish all things necessary for the preparation
of such copies; and it will be for you to take special care that they be
completed with as little delay as possible. You have authority also, in
virtue of this letter, to use two of the public carriages for their conveyance,
by which arrangement the copies when fairly written will most easily be
forwarded for my personal inspection; and one of the deacons of your church
may be entrusted with this service, who, on his arrival here, shall experience
my liberality. God preserve you, beloved brother!"
CHAPTER XXXVII: How the Copies were
SUCH were the emperor's commands,
which were followed by the immediate execution of the work itself, which
we sent him in magnificent and elaborately bound volumes of a threefold
and fourfold form. This fact is attested by another letter, which the emperor
wrote in acknowledgment, in which, having heard that the city Constantia
in our country, the inhabitants of which had been more than commonly devoted
to superstition, had been impelled by a sense of religion to abandon their
past idolatry, he testified his joy, and approval of their conduct.
CHAPTER XXXVIII: How the Market town
of Gaza was made a City far its Profession of Christianity, and received
the Name of Constantia.
FOR in fact the place now called
Constantia, in the province of Palestine, having embraced the saving religion,
was distinguished both by the favor of God, and by special honor from the
emperor, being now for the first time raised to the rank of a city, and
receiving the more honored name of his pious sister in exchange for its
CHAPTER XXXIX: That a Place in Phoenicia
also was made a City, and in Other Cities Idolatry was abolished, and Churches
A SIMILAR change was effected in
several other cities; for instance, in that town of Phoenicia which received
its name from that of the emperor, and the inhabitants of which committed
their innumerable idols to the flames, and adopted in their stead the principles
of the saving faith. Numbers, too, in the other provinces, both in the
cities and the country, became willing inquirers after the saving knowledge
of God; destroyed as worthless things the images of every kind which they
had heretofore held most sacred; voluntarily demolished the lofty temples
and shrines which contained them; and, renouncing their former sentiments,
or rather errors, commenced and completed entirely new churches. But since
it is not so much my province to give a circumstantial detail of the actions
of this pious prince, as it is theirs who have been privileged to enjoy
his society at all times, I shall content myself with briefly recording
such facts as have come to my own personal knowledge, before I proceed
to notice the last days of his life.
CHAPTER XL: That having conferred
the Dignity of Caesars on his Three Sans at the Three Decennial Periods
of his Reign, he dedicated the Church at Jerusalem.
By this time the thirtieth year of
his reign was completed. In the course of this period, his three sons had
been admitted at different times as his colleagues in the empire. The first,
Constantinus, who bore his father's name, obtained this distinction about
the tenth year of his reign. Constantius, the second son, so called from
his grandfather, was proclaimed Caesar about the twentieth, while Constans,
the third, whose name expresses the firmness and stability of his character,
was advanced to the same dignity at the thirtieth anniversary of his father's
reign. Having thus reared a threefold offspring, a Trinity, as it were,
of pious sons, and having received them severally at each decennial period
to a participation in his imperial authority, he judged the festival of
his Tricennalia to be a fit occasion for thanksgiving to the Sovereign
Lord of all, at the same time believing that the dedication of the church
which his zealous magnificence had erected at Jerusalem might advantageously
CHAPTER XLI: That in the meantime
he ordered a Council to be convened at Tyre, because of Controversies raised
MEANWHILE that spirit of envy which
is the enemy of all good, like a dark cloud intercepting the sun's brightest
rays, endeavored to mar the joy of this festivity, by again raising contentions
to disturb the tranquillity of the Egyptian churches. Our divinely favored
emperor, however, once more convened a synod composed of many bishops,
and set them as it were in armed array, like the host of God, against this
malignant spirit, having commanded their presence from the whole of Egypt
and Libya, from Asia, and from Europe, in order, first, to decide the questions
in dispute, and afterwards to perform the dedication of the sacred edifice
above mentioned. He enjoined them, by the way, to adjust their differences
at the capital city of Phoenicia, reminding them that they had no right,
while harboring feelings of mutual animosity, to engage in the service
of God, since his law expressly forbids those who are at variance to offer
their gift until they have first become reconciled and mutually disposed
to peace. Such were the salutary precepts which the emperor continually
kept vividly before his own mind, and in accordance with which he admonished
them to undertake their present duties in a spirit of perfect unanimity
and concord, in a letter to the following purport.
CHAPTER XLII: Constantine's Letter
to the Council at Tyre.
"VICTOR CONSTANTINUS, MAXIMUS AUGUSTUS,
to the holy Council at Tyre.
"Surely it would best consist with
and best become the prosperity of these our times, that the Catholic Church
should be undivided, and the servants of Christ be at this present moment
clear from all reproach. Since, however, there are those who, carried away
by a baleful and furious spirit of contention (for I will not charge them
with intentionally leading a life unworthy of their profession), are endeavoring
to create that general confusion which, in my judgment, is the most pernicious
of all evils; I exhort you, forward as you already are, to meet together
and form a synod without delay: to defend those who need protection; to
administer remedies to your brethren who are in peril; to recall the divided
members to unity of judgment; to rectify errors while opportunity is yet
allowed: that thus you may restore to so many provinces that due measure
of concord which, strange and sad anomaly! the arrogance of a few individuals
has destroyed. And I believed that all are alike persuaded that this course
is at the same time pleasing to Almighty God (as well as the highest object
of my own desires), and will bring no small honor to yourselves, should
you be successful in restoring peace. Delay not, then, but hasten with
redoubled zeal to terminate the present dissensions in a manner becoming
the occasion, by assembling together in that spirit of true sincerity and
faith which the Savior whom we serve especially demands from us, I may
almost say with an audible voice, on all occasions. No proof of pious zeal
on my part shall be wanting. Already have I done all to which my attention
was directed by your letters. I have sent to those bishops whose presence
you desired, that they may share your counsels. I have dispatched Dionysius,
a man of consular rank, who will both remind those prelates of their duty
who are bound to attend the Council with you, and will himself be there
to superintend the proceedings, but especially to maintain good order.
Meantime should any one, though I deem it most improbable, venture on this
occasion to violate my command, and refuse his attendance, a messenger
shall be dispatched forthwith to banish that person in virtue of an imperial
edict, and to teach him that it does not become him to resist an emperor's
decrees when issued in defense of truth. For the rest, it will be for your
Holinesses, unbiased either by enmity or favor, but consistently with ecclesiastical
and apostolic order, to devise a fitting remedy whether it be for positive
offenses or for unpremeditated errors; in order that you may at once free
the Church from all reproach, relieve my anxiety, and, by restoring the
blessings of peace to those who are now divided, procure the highest honor
for yourselves. God preserve you, beloved brethren!"
CHAPTER XLIII: Bishops from all the
Provinces attended the Dedication of the Church at Jerusalem.
No sooner had these injunctions been
carded into effect, than another emissary arrived with dispatches from
the emperor, and an urgent admonition to the Council to hasten their journey
to Jerusalem without delay. Accordingly they all took their departure from
the province of Phoenicia, and proceeded to their destination, availing
themselves of the public means of transport. Thus Jerusalem became the
gathering point for distinguished prelates from every province, and the
whole city was thronged by a vast assemblage of the servants of God. The
Macedonians had sent the bishop of their metropolis; the Pannonians and
Moesians the fairest of God's youthful flock among them. A holy prelate
from Persia too was there, deeply versed in the sacred oracles; while Bithynian
and Thracian bishops graced the Council with their presence; nor were the
most illustrious from Cilicia wanting, nor the chief of the Cappadocians,
distinguished above all for learning and eloquence. In short, the whole
of Syria and Mesopotamia, Phoenicia and Arabia, Palestine, Egypt, and Libya,
with the dwellers in the Thebaid, all contributed to swell the mighty concourse
of God's ministers, followed as they were by vast numbers from every province.
They were attended by an imperial escort, and officers of trust had also
been sent from the palace itself, with instructions to heighten the splendor
of the festival at the emperor's expense.
CHAPTER XLIV: Of their Reception
by the Notary Marianus; the Distribution of Money to the Poor; and Offerings
to the Church.
THE director and chief of these officers
was a most useful servant of the emperor, a man eminent for faith and piety,
and thoroughly acquainted with the Divine word, who had been honorably
conspicuous by his profession of godliness during the time of the tyrants'
power, and therefore was deservedly entrusted with the arrangement of the
present proceedings. Accordingly, in faithful obedience to the emperor's
commands, he received the assembly with courteous hospitality, and entertained
them with feasts and banquets on a scale of great splendor. He also distributed
lavish supplies of money and clothing among the naked and destitute, and
the multitudes of both sexes who suffered from want of food and the common
necessaries of life. Finally, he enriched and beautified the church itself
throughout with offerings of imperial magnificence, and thus fully accomplished
the service he had been commissioned to perform.
CHAPTER XLV: Various Discourses by
the Assembled Bishops; also by Eusebius, the Writer of this History.
MEANTIME the festival derived additional
luster both from the prayers and discourses of the ministers of God, some
of whom extolled the pious emperor's willing devotion to the Savior of
mankind, and dilated on the magnificence of the edifice which he had raised
to his memory. Others afforded, as it were, an intellectual feast to the
ears of all present, by public disquisitions on the sacred doctrines of
our religion. Others interpreted passages of holy Scripture, and unfolded
their hidden meaning; while such as were unequal to these efforts presented
a bloodless sacrifice and mystical service to God in the prayers which
they offered for general peace, for the Church of God, for the emperor
himself as the instrumental cause of so many blessings, and for his pious
sons. I myself too, unworthy as I was of such a privilege, pronounced various
public orations in honor of this solemnity, wherein I partly explained
by a written description the details of the imperial edifice, and partly
endeavored to gather from the prophetic visions apt illustrations of the
symbols it displayed. Thus joyfully was the festival of dedication celebrated
in the thirtieth year of our emperor's reign.
CHAPTER XLVI: That Eusebius afterwards
delivered his Description of the Church of the Savior, and a Tricennial
Oration before Constantine himself.
THE structure of the church of our
Savior, the form of his sacred cave, the splendor of the work itself, and
the numberless offerings in gold, and silver, and precious stones, I have
described to the best of my ability, and dedicated to the emperor in a
separate treatise, which on a fitting opportunity I shall append to this
present work. I shall add to it also that oration on his Tricennalia which
shortly afterwards, having traveled to the city which bears his name, I
delivered in the emperor's own presence. This was the second opportunity
afforded me of glorifying the Supreme God in the imperial palace itself:
and on this occasion my pious hearer evinced the greatest joy, as he afterwards
testified, when he entertained the bishops then present, and loaded them
with distinctions of every kind.
CHAPTER XLVII: That the Council at
Nicaea was held in the Twentieth, the Dedication of the Church at Jerusalem
in the Thirtieth, Year of Constantine's Reign.
THIS second synod the emperor convened
at Jerusalem, being the greatest of which we have any knowledge, next to
the first which he had summoned at the famous Bithynian city. That indeed
was a triumphal assembly, held in the twentieth year of his reign, an occasion
of thanksgiving for victory over his enemies in the very city which bears
the name of victory. The present meeting added luster to the thirtieth
anniversary, during which the emperor dedicated the church at the sepulcher
of our Savior, as a peace- offering to God, the giver of all good.
CHAPTER XLVIII: That Constantine
was displeased with one who praised him excessively.
AND now that all these ceremonies
were completed, and the divine qualities of the emperor's character continued
to be the theme of universal praise, one of God's ministers presumed so
far as in his own presence to pronounce him blessed, as having been counted
worthy to hold absolute and universal empire in this life, and as being
destined to share the empire of the Son of God in the world to come. These
words, however, Constantine heard with indignation, and forbade the speaker
to hold such language, exhorting him rather to pray earnestly on his behalf,
that whether in this life or in that which is to come, he might be found
worthy to be a servant of God.
CHAPTER XLIX: Marriage of his Son
ON the completion of the thirtieth
year of his reign he solemnized the marriage of his second son, having
concluded that of his first-born long before. This was an occasion of great
joy and festivity, the emperor himself attending on his son at the ceremony,
and entertaining the guests of both sexes, the men and women in distinct
and separate companies, with sumptuous hospitality. Rich presents likewise
were liberally distributed among the cities and people.
CHAPTER L: Embassy and Presents from
ABOUT this time ambassadors from
the Indians, who inhabit the distant regions of the East, arrived with
presents consisting of many varieties of brilliant precious stones, and
animals differing in species from those known to us. These offerings they
presented to the emperor, thus allowing that his sovereignty extended even
to the Indian Ocean, and that the princes of their country, who rendered
homage to him both by paintings and statues, acknowledged his imperial
and paramount authority. Thus the Eastern Indians now submitted to his
sway, as the Britons of the Western Ocean had done at the commencement
of his reign.
CHAPTER LI: That Constantine divided
the Empire between his Three Sons, whom he had instructed in Politics and
HAVING thus established his power
in the opposite extremities of the world, he divided the whole extent of
his dominions, as though he were allotting a patrimonial inheritance to
the dearest objects of his regard, among his three sons. To the eldest
he assigned his grandfather's portion; to the second, the empire of the
East; to the third, the countries which lie between these two divisions.
And being desirous of furnishing his children with an inheritance truly
valuable and salutary to their souls, he had been careful to imbue them
with true religious principles, being himself their guide to the knowledge
of sacred things, and also appointing men of approved piety to be their
instructors. At the same time he assigned them the most accomplished teachers
of secular learning, by some of whom they were taught the arts of war,
while they were trained by others in political, and by others again in
legal science. To each moreover was granted a truly royal retinue, consisting
of infantry, spearmen, and body guards, with every other kind of military
force; commanded respectively by captains, tribunes, and generals of whose
warlike skill and devotion to his sons the emperor had had previous experience.
CHAPTER LII: That after they had
reached Man's Estate he was their Guide in Piety.
As long as the Caesars were of tender
years, they were aided by suitable advisers in the management of public
affairs; but on their arrival at the age of manhood their father's instructions
alone sufficed. When present he proposed to them his own example, and admonished
them to follow his pious course: in their absence he furnished them by
letter with rules of conduct suited to their imperial station, the first
and greatest of which was an exhortation to value the knowledge and worship
of the Sovereign Lord of all more than wealth, nay, more than empire itself.
At length he permitted them to direct the public administration of the
empire without control, making it his first request that they would care
for the interests of the Church of God, and boldly profess themselves disciples
of Christ. Thus trained, and excited to obedience not so much by precept
as by their own voluntary desire for virtue, his sons more than fulfilled
the admonitions of their father, devoting their earnest attention to the
service of God, and observing the ordinances of the Church even in the
palace itself, with all the members of their households. For their father's
forethought had provided that all the attendants of his son's should be
Christians. And not only so, but the military officers of highest rank,
and those who had the control of public business, were professors of the
same faith: for the emperor placed confidence in the fidelity of men devoted
to the service of God, as in a strong and sure defense. When our thrice
blessed prince had completed these arrangements, and thus secured order
and tranquillity throughout the empire, God, the dispenser of all blessings,
judged it to be the fitting time to translate him to a better inheritance,
and summoned him to pay the debt of nature.
CHAPTER LIII: Having reigned about
Thirty-two Years, and lived above Sixty, he still had a Sound Body.
HE completed the time of his reign
in two and thirty years, wanting a few months and days, and his whole life
extended to about twice that period. At this age he still possessed a sound
and vigorous body, free from all blemish, and of more than youthful vivacity;
a noble mien, and strength equal to any exertion; so that he was able to
join in martial exercises, to fide, endure the fatigues of travel, engage
in battle, and erect trophies over his conquered enemies, besides gaining
those bloodless victories by which he was wont to triumph over those who
CHAPTER LIV: Of those who abused
his Extreme Benevolence for Avarice and Hypocrisy.
IN like manner his mental qualities
reached the highest point of human perfection. Indeed he was distinguished
by every excellence of character, but especially by benevolence; a virtue,
however, which subjected him to censure from many, in consequence of the
baseness of wicked men, who ascribed their own crimes to the emperor's
forbearance. In truth I can myself bear testimony to the grievous evils
which prevailed during these times; I mean the violence of rapacious and
unprincipled men, who preyed on all classes of society alike, and the scandalous
hypocrisy of those who crept into the Church, and assumed the name and
character of Christians. His own benevolence and goodness of heart, the
genuineness of his own faith, and his truthfulness of character, induced
the emperor to credit the profession of these reputed Christians, who craftily
preserved the semblance of sincere affection for his person. The confidence
he reposed in such men sometimes forced him into conduct unworthy of himself,
of which envy took advantage to cloud in this respect the luster of his
CHAPTER LV: Constantine employed
himself in Composition of Various Kinds to the Close of his Life.
THESE offenders, however, were soon
overtaken by divine chastisement. To return to our emperor. He had so thoroughly
trained his mind in the art of reasoning that he continued to the last
to compose discourses on various subjects, to deliver frequent orations
in public, and to instruct his hearers in the sacred doctrines of religion.
He was also habitually engaged in legislating both on political and military
questions; in short, in devising whatever might be conducive to the general
welfare of the human race. It is well worthy of remark, that, very shortly
before his departure, he pronounced a funeral oration before his usual
auditory, in which he spoke at length on the immortality of the soul, the
state of those who had persevered in a life of godliness, and the blessings
which God has laid up in store for them that love him. On the other hand
he made it appear by copious and conclusive arguments what the end of those
will be who have pursued a contrary career, describing in vivid language
the final ruin of the ungodly. His powerful testimony on these subjects
seemed so far to touch the consciences of those around him, that one of
the self-imagined philosophers, of whom he asked his opinion of what he
had heard, bore testimony to the truth of his words, and accorded a real,
though reluctant, tribute of praise to the arguments by which he had exposed
the worship of a plurality of gods. By converse such as this with his friends
before his death, the emperor seemed as it were to smooth and prepare the
way for his transition to a happier life.
CHAPTER LVI: How he took Bishops
with him on an Expedition against the Persians, and look with him a Tent
in the Form of a Church.
IT is also worthy of record that
about the time of which I am at present writing, the emperor, having heard
of an insurrection of some barbarians in the East, observed that the conquest
of this enemy was still in store for him, and resolved on an expedition
against the Persians. Accordingly he proceeded at once to put his forces
in motion, at the same time communicating his intended march to the bishops
who happened to be at his court, some of whom he judged it right to take
with him as companions, and as needful coadjutors in the service of God.
They, on the other hand, cheerfully declared their willingness to follow
in his train, disclaiming any desire to leave him, and engaging to battle
with and for him by supplication to God on his behalf. Full of joy at this
answer to his request, he unfolded to them his projected line of march;
after which he caused a tent of great splendor, representing in shape the
figure of a church, to be prepared for his own use in the approaching war.
In this he intended to unite with the bishops in offering prayers to the
God from whom all victory proceeds.
CHAPTER LVII: How he received an
Embassy from the Persians and kept the Night Vigil with others at the Feast
IN the meanwhile the Persians, hearing
of the emperor's warlike preparations, and not a little terrified at the
prospect of an engagement with his forces, dispatched an embassy to pray
for conditions of peace. These overtures the emperor, himself a sincere
lover of peace, at once accepted, and readily entered on friendly relations
with that people. At this time, the great festival of Easter was at hand;
on which occasion he rendered the tribute of his prayers to God, and passed
the night in watching with the rest.
CHAPTER LVIII: Concerning the Building
of a Church in Honor of the Apostles at Constantinople.
AFTER this he proceeded to erect
a church in memory of the apostles, in the city which bears his name. This
building he carried to a vast height, and brilliantly decorated by encasing
it from the foundation to the roof with marble slabs of various colors.
He also formed the inner roof of finely fretted work, and overlaid it throughout
with gold. The external covering, which protected the building from the
rain, was of brass instead of tiles; and this too was splendidly and profusely
adorned with gold, and reflected the sun's rays with a brilliancy which
dazzled the distant beholder. The dome was entirely encompassed by a finely
carved tracery, wrought in brass and gold.
CHAPTER LIX: Farther Description
of the same Church.
SUCH was the magnificence with which
the emperor was pleased to beautify this church. The building was surrounded
by an open area of great extent, the four sides of which were terminated
by porticos which enclosed the area and the church itself. Adjoining these
porticos were ranges of stately chambers, with baths and promenades, and
besides many apartments adapted to the use of those who had charge of the
CHAPTER LX: He also erected his own
Sepulchral Monument in this Church.
ALL these edifices the emperor consecrated
with the desire of perpetuating the memory of the apostles of our Savior.
He had, however, another object in erecting this building: an object at
first unknown, but which afterwards became evident to all. He had in fact
made choice of this spot in the prospect of his own death, anticipating
with extraordinary fervor of faith that his body would share their title
with the apostles themselves, and that he should thus even after death
become the subject, with them, of the devotions which should be performed
to their honor in this place. He accordingly caused twelve coffins to be
set up in this church, like sacred pillars in honor and memory of the apostolic
number, in the center of which his own was placed, having six of theirs
on either side of it. Thus, as I said, he had provided with prudent foresight
an honorable resting place for his body after death, and, having long before
secretly formed this resolution, he now consecrated this church to the
apostles, believing that this tribute to their memory would be of no small
advantage to his own soul. Nor did God disappoint him of that which he
so ardently expected and desired. For after he had completed the first
services of the feast of Easter, and had passed this sacred day of our
Lord in a manner which made it an occasion of joy and gladness to himself
and to all; the God through whose aid he performed all these acts, and
whose zealous servant he continued to be even to the end of life, was pleased
at a happy time to translate him to a better life.
CHAPTER LXI: His Sickness at Helenopolis,
and Prayers respecting his Baptism.
AT first he experienced some slight
bodily indisposition, which was soon followed by positive disease. In consequence
of this he visited the hot baths of his own city; and thence proceeded
to that which bore the name of his mother. Here he passed some time in
the church of the martyrs, and offered up supplications and prayers to
God. Being at length convinced that his life was drawing to a close, he
felt the time was come at which he should seek purification from sins of
his past career, firmly believing that whatever errors he had committed
as a mortal man, his soul would be purified from them through the efficacy
of the mystical words and the salutary waters of baptism. Impressed with
these thoughts, he poured forth his supplications and confessions to God,
kneeling on the pavement in the church itself, in which he also now for
the first time received the imposition of hands with prayer. After this
he proceeded as far as the suburbs of Nicomedia, and there, having summoned
the bishops to meet him, addressed them in the following words.
CHAPTER LXII: Constantine's Appeal
to the Bishops, requesting them to confer upon him the Rite of Baptism.
"THE time is arrived which I have
long hoped for, with an earnest desire and prayer that I might obtain the
salvation of God. The hour is come in which I too may have the blessing
of that seal which confers immortality; the hour in which I may receive
the seal of salvation. I had thought to do this in the waters of the river
Jordan, wherein our Savior, for our example, is recorded to have been baptized:
but God, who knows what is expedient for us, is pleased that I should receive
this blessing here. Be it so, then, without delay: for should it be his
will who is Lord of life and death, that my existence here should be prolonged,
and should I be destined henceforth to associate with the people of God,
and unite with them in prayer as a member of his. Church, I will prescribe
to myself from this time such a course of life as befits his service."
After he had thus spoken, the prelates performed the sacred ceremonies
in the usual manner, and, having given him the necessary instructions,
made him a partaker of the mystic ordinance. Thus was Constantine the first
of all sovereigns who was regenerated and perfected in a church dedicated
to the martyrs of Christ; thus gifted with the Divine seal of baptism,
he rejoiced in spirit, was renewed, and filled with heavenly light: his
soul was gladdened by reason of the fervency of his faith, and astonished
at the manifestation of the power of God. At the conclusion of the ceremony
he arrayed himself in shining imperial vestments, brilliant as the light,
and reclined on a couch of the purest white, refusing to clothe himself
with the purple any more.
CHAPTER LXIII: How after his Baptism
he rendered Thanks God.
HE then lifted his voice and poured
forth a strain of thanksgiving to God; after which he added these words.
"Now I know that I am truly blessed: now I feel assured that I am accounted
worthy of immortality, and am made a partaker of Divine light." He further
expressed his compassion for the unhappy condition of those who were strangers
to such blessings as he enjoyed: and when the tribunes and generals of
his army appeared in his presence with lamentations and tears at the prospect
of their bereavement, and with prayers that his days might yet be prolonged,
he assured them in reply that he was now in possession of true life; that
none but himself could know the value of the blessings he had received;
so that he was anxious rather to hasten than to defer his departure to
God. He then proceeded to complete the needful arrangement of his affairs,
bequeathing an annual donation to the Roman inhabitants of his imperial
city; apportioning the inheritance of the empire, like a patrimonial estate,
among his own children; in short, making every disposition according to
his own pleasure.
CHAPTER LXIV: Constantinople's Death
at Noon on the Feast of Pentecost.
ALL these events occurred during
a most important festival, I mean the august and holy solemnity of Pentecost,
which is distinguished by a period of seven weeks, and sealed with that
one day on which the holy Scriptures attest, the ascension of our common
Savior into heaven, and the descent of the Holy Spirit among men. In the
course of this feast the emperor received the privileges I have described;
and on the last day of all, which one might justly call the feast of feasts,
he was removed about mid- day to the presence of his God, leaving his mortal
remains to his fellow mortals, and carrying into fellowship with God that
part of his being which was capable of understanding and loving him. Such
was the close of Constantine's mortal life. Let us now attend to the circumstances
which followed this event.
CHAPTER LXV: Lamentations of the
Soldiery and their Officers.
IMMEDIATELY the assembled spearmen
and body-guard rent their garments, and prostrated themselves on the ground,
striking their heads, and uttering lamentations and cries of sorrow, calling
on their imperial lord and master, or rather, like true children, on their
father, while their tribunes and centurions addressed him as their preserver,
protector, and benefactor. The rest of the soldiery also came in respectful
order to mourn as a flock the removal of their good shepherd. The people
meanwhile ran wildly throughout the city, some expressing the inward sorrow
of their hearts by loud cries, others appearing confounded with grief:
each mourning the event as a calamity which had befallen himself, and bewailing
his death as though they felt themselves bereft of a blessing common alike
CHAPTER LXVI: Removal of the Body
from Nicomedia to the Palace at Constantinople.
AFTER this the soldiers lifted the
body from its couch, and laid it in a golden coffin, which they enveloped
in a covering of purple, and removed to the city which was called by his
own name. Here it was placed in an elevated position in the principal chamber
of the imperial palace, and surrounded by candles burning in candlesticks
of gold, presenting a marvelous spectacle, and such as no one under the
light of the sun had ever seen on earth since the world itself began. For
in the central apartment of the imperial palace, the body of the emperor
lay in its elevated resting- place, arrayed in the symbols of sovereignty,
the diadem and purple robe, and encircled by a numerous retinue of attendants,
who watched around it incessantly night and day.
CHAPTER LXVII: He received the same
Honors from the Counts and other Officers as before his Death.
THE military officers, too, of the
highest rank, the counts, and the whole order of magistrates, who had been
accustomed to do obeisance to their emperor before, continued to fulfill
this duty without any change, even after his death entering the chamber
at the appointed times, and saluting their coffined sovereign with bended
knee, as though he were still alive. After them the senators appeared,
and all who had been distinguished by any honorable office, and rendered
the same homage. These were followed by multitudes of every rank, who came
with their wives and children to witness the spectacle. These honors continued
to be rendered for a considerable time, the soldiers having resolved thus
to guard the body until his sons should arrive, and take on themselves
the conduct of their father's funeral. No mortal had ever, like this blessed
prince, continued to reign even after death, and to receive the same homage
as during his life: he only, of all who have ever lived, obtained this
reward from God: a suitable reward, since he alone of all sovereigns had
in all his actions honored the Supreme God and his Christ, and God himself
accordingly was pleased that even his mortal remains should still retain
imperial authority among men; thus indicating to all who were not utterly
devoid of understanding the immortal and endless empire which his soul
was destined to enjoy. This was the course of events here.
CHAPTER LXVIII: Resolution of the
Army to confer thence-forward the Title of Augustus on his Sons.
MEANWHILE the tribunes selected from
the troops under their command those officers whose fidelity and zeal had
long been known to the emperor, and dispatched them to the Caesars with
intelligence of the late event. This service they accordingly performed.
As soon, however, as the soldiery throughout the provinces received the
tidings of the emperor's decease, they all, as if by a supernatural impulse,
resolved with one consent, as though their great emperor had been yet alive,
to acknowledge none other than his sons as sovereigns of the Roman world:
and these they soon after determined should no longer retain the name of
Caesar, but should each be honored with the title of Augustus, a name which
indicates the highest supremacy of imperial power. Such were the measures
adopted by the army; and these resolutions they communicated to each other
by letter, so that the unanimous desire of the legions became known at
the same point of time throughout the whole extent of the empire.
CHAPTER LXIX: Mourning for Constantine
at Rome; and the Honor paid him there through Paintings after his Death.
ON the arrival of the news of the
emperor's death in the imperial city, the Roman senate and people felt
the announcement as the heaviest and most afflictive of all calamities,
and gave themselves up to an excess of grief. The baths and markets were
closed, the public spectacles, and all other recreations in which men of
leisure are accustomed to indulge, were interrupted. Those who had erewhile
lived in luxurious ease, now walked the streets in gloomy sadness, while
all united in blessing the name of the deceased, as the one who was dear
to God, and truly worthy of the imperial dignity. Nor was their sorrow
expressed only in words: they proceeded also to honor him, by the dedication
of paintings to his memory, with the same respect as before his death.
The design of these pictures embodied a representation of heaven itself,
and depicted the emperor reposing in an ethereal mansion above the celestial
vault. They too declared his sons alone to be emperors and Augusti, and
begged with earnest entreaty that they might be permitted to receive the
body of their emperor, and perform his obsequies in the imperial city.
CHAPTER LXX: His Burial by his Son
Constantius at Constantinople.
THUS did they there testify their
respect for the memory of him who had been honored by God. The second of
his sons, however, who had by this time arrived, proceeded to celebrate
his father's funeral in the city which bears his name, himself heading
the procession, which was preceded by detachments of soldiers in military
array, and followed by vast multitudes, the body itself being surrounded
by companies of spearmen and heavy armed infantry. On the arrival of the
procession at the church dedicated to the apostles of our Savior, the coffin
was there entombed. Such honor did the youthful emperor Constantius render
to his deceased parent, both by his presence, and by the due performance
of this sacred ceremony.
CHAPTER LXXI: Sacred Service in the
Church of the Apostles an the Occasion of Constantine's Funeral.
As soon as [Constantius] had withdrawn
himself with the military train, the ministers of God came forward, with
the multitude and the whole congregation of the faithful, and performed
the rites of Divine worship with prayer. At the same time the tribute of
their praises was given to the character of this blessed prince, whose
body rested on a lofty and conspicuous monument, and the whole multitude
united with the priests of God in offering prayers for his soul, not without
tears, -- nay, rather with much weeping; thus performing an office consonant
with the desires of the pious deceased. In this respect also the favor
of God was manifested to his servant, in that he not only bequeathed the
succession of the empire to his own beloved sons, but that the earthly
tabernacle of his thrice blessed soul, according to his own earnest wish,
was permitted to share the monument of the apostles; was associated with
the honor of their name, and with that of the people of God; was honored
by the performance of the sacred ordinances and mystic service; and enjoyed
a participation in the prayers of the saints. Thus, too, he continued to
possess imperial power even after death, controlling, as though with renovated
life, a universal dominion, and retaining in his own name, as Victor, Maximus,
Augustus, the sovereignty of the Roman world.
CHAPTER LXXII: Of the Phoenix.
WE cannot compare him with that bird
of Egypt, the only one, as they say, of its kind, which dies, self sacrificed,
in the midst of aromatic perfumes, and, rising from its own ashes with
new life, soars aloft in the same form which it had before. Rather did
he resemble his Savior, who, as the sown corn which is multiplied from
a single grain, had yielded abundant increase through the blessing of God,
and had overspread the whole world with his fruit. Even so did our thrice
blessed prince become multiplied, as it were, through the succession of
his sons. His statue was erected along with theirs in every province; and
the name of Constantine was owned and honored even after the close of his
CHAPTER LXXIII: How Constantine is
represented on Coins in the Act of ascending to Heaven.
A COINAGE Was also struck which bore
the following device. On one side appeared the figure of our blessed prince,
with the head closely veiled: the reverse exhibited him sitting as a charioteer,
drawn by four horses, with a hand stretched downward from above to receive
him up to heaven.
CHAPTER LXXIV: The God whom he had
honored deservedly honored him in Return.
SUCH are the proofs by which the
Supreme God has made it manifest to us, in the person of Constantine, who
alone of all sovereigns had openly professed the Christian faith, how great
a difference he perceives between those whose privilege it is to worship
him and his Christ, and those who have chosen the contrary part, who provoked
his enmity by daring to assail his Church, and whose calamitous end, in
every instance, afforded tokens of his displeasure, as manifestly as the
death of Constantine conveyed to all men an evident assurance of his Divine
CHAPTER LXXV: He surpassed all Preceding
Emperors in Devotion to God.
STANDING, as he did, alone and pre-eminent
among the Roman emperors as a worshiper of God; alone as the bold proclaimer
to all men of the doctrine of Christ; having alone rendered honor, as none
before him had ever done, to his Church; having alone abolished utterly
the error of polytheism, and discountenanced idolatry in every form: so,
alone among them both during life and after death, was he accounted worthy
of such honors as none can say have been attained to by any other; so that
no one, whether Greek or Barbarian, nay, of the ancient Romans themselves,
has ever been presented to us as worthy of comparison with him.
from Volume I, Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers,
2nd Series, ed. P. Schaff and H. Wace
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